Eli Stone: The Complete Second Season Review
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To shamelessly borrow a phrase, I have come not to praise Eli Stone, but to bury him. As with many recent network dramas that don’t fall under the Law & Order or CSI umbrella, this San Francisco lawyer turned latter day prophet drama didn’t survive its second season. While I never expected it to become The Next Big Thing (and considering my feelings about some of the latest Big Things, I was just fine with that), I had hoped that its quirky charms might preserve it for at least a few years. Then I remembered that this is network TV, where “quirky charm” equals “doomed” (see Pushing Daisies).

The series focused around ambitious young lawyer Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller), who one night discovered George Michael singing to him on his coffee table. A series of increasingly bizarre hallucinations led him to discover two important things about himself: first, that he has inherited a life-threatening aneurysm from his alcoholic father, and second, that he’s become something of a self-absorbed jerk. Through the course of the first season, his “visions,” often containing musical guest stars or members of the cast performing musical numbers, led him to take and win cases that would benefit both individuals in trouble and the greater good. While never settling within an established religious tradition, the series strongly suggested that Eli, like his father, had been given a hallucinogenic hotline from the Almighty.

  
 
The first season ended with Eli’s decision to undergo surgery to remove the aneurysm, and the second picks up directly on the repercussions of that decision. The series also begins to more strongly explore the effects of his bizarre new behavior on those around him, as his boss and former prospective father-in-law Jordan Wethersby (Victor Garber), inspired by Eli’s newfound idealism, breaks away from his partners to start a new firm that will promote social justice over profit.

The struggles of the new, virtuous Wethersby Stone against dastardly former partners Posner Klein are probably the weakest aspects of the show, drawing such a stark line between Good People (and their lawyers) and Bad People (and their lawyers). Though the show does try to paint in a few gray areas with regard to the procession of clients, it’s usually pretty clear which side is which.

Better by far are the emotional arcs provided to the show’s supporting cast. While Eli and his visions are still the show’s driving force, the other characters are given more chances to exist as individuals, rather than simply reactions to Eli’s possibly divine insanity. It’s also a treat to watch those members of the cast with prior musical experience cut loose from time to time—especially Garber and Loretta Devine, who plays Eli’s assistant, Patti.

Still, the series frequently feels uneven, and while I enjoyed the balance it tried to strike between broad comedy and emotional resonance, it just never seemed to catch on with audiences. The final episode includes a brief coda that tries too hard to tie up some loose ends, but it can’t help but feel forced and tacked on. Eli Stone tried to do its own thing its own way, and, had it not been cut short, I still feel confident that it had plenty more to say.


DVD Review:
The Eli Stone second season DVD set is fairly bare, including all 13 episodes but without any commentary tracks. There are also a couple of featurettes, a few deleted scenes, and a half-hearted gag reel. Much like the later episodes of the season, which were pulled from the original schedule and aired over the summer, it feels like ABC just dumped this set out to get it out of the way.

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