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Ranking History’s Most Competent Fictional Lawyers (A FilmDrunk Law Review)

By 05.21.14
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Guten tag, liebchens!

Having Vince-sourced the real legal stories has allowed me to focus on my Art. Ok, there’s one prospective lawsuit I’m required to discuss at the end of this, but for the most part I will concentrate this time on

1. TV Lawyers. One of my many devotees approached me recently. “Mr. Finch! Mr. Finch!” he said. I responded, “Hey, guy–‘Mr. Finch’ is my father. Call me ‘Mr. Finch, Esq.'” To make a long story endless, he said he enjoyed my deconstructions of the way attorneys are depicted on film, and maybe I could do the same thing with TV lawyers.

What’s that under my foot? Oh, it’s just Warming Glow‘s dick. Yes, television is generally their raison d’etre, but since I watch the majority of the movies I see on the monolithic TV in my lavish estate (except for screenings and premieres, of course), the line between the two media is getting blurred. In addition, f*ck you.

Be warned–I’m not going to deal with every television lawyer I like, but these were the ones that came to mind first as particular favorites. Take a wild guess if I find the average legal show appealing. The Dipsh*t McFunguses on every David E. Kelley abomination make me want to self immolate, I have no interest in the latter part of Law & Order, and I am still extremely disappointed that The Good Wife isn’t the title of a pornographic cooking series. Nevertheless, I have found a number of television attorneys inspirational.

Nathan Thurm. At an impressionable age, one might encounter a person so inspirational as to set the pathless youth upon their own personal journey. For most of you, that inspiration is me. For me, it was an attorney played by Martin Short on Saturday Night Live (starts at 3:02; continues at 5:40):

Hulu boned me, so the best video I could find looks like Michael J. Fox camcorded it on a turbulent flight. Anyway, since I assume many of you are too young to know or remember, there was an aberrant season of SNL in 1984-85 wherein the cast was filled with not-unknown performers. This was the brief post-Eddie Murphy, pre-return-of-Lorne-Michaels year, and it was pretty f*cking funny. In this sketch, a parody of 60 Minutes (a CBS show people used to watch), the Minkman brothers, creators of the world’s greatest novelty items, face off against a Hong Kong company making hazardous knock-off whoopie cushions and fake schnozzes. Short, as Nathan Thurm, represents the Hong Kong company.

From Thurm I learned the important things they don’t put on the Bar exam, at least not any of the times I took it. Smoke, but don’t use an ashtray. Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make harsh counteraccusations. Put simply, the attorney’s version of “location, location, location” is “deny, deny, deny.”

Short is an interesting case–he did some great work on SNL, but his career has never been what what it seemed destined to be. I suspect that he’s one of the world’s great auditioners and a swell dude to be around, but too quirky for audiences to accept as a lead in movies or sitcoms. Essentially, an off-putting Rick Moranis. He tried to resuscitate Thurm on a special, but, as SNL has never discovered, less tends to be more.

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Except, of course, when more is more. I am forced again to remember that a lot of you are younger than sperm, so I’ll tell you that a badass once walked among us, and his name was Phil Hartman. Whatever criticisms have been directed at Saturday Night Live during its 163 years of existence (it predates television, having originally appeared as a humorous series of bas reliefs), none of them have ever disparaged Hartman. He was in his share of bad sketches, like everyone else, but I can’t think of anything that was ever bad because of him. Here he is at the least bad that anyone has ever been (also here and some other places).

Keyrock, the prehistoric man unfrozen in 1988 who then went to law school, was always funny despite appearing several times. It was a parody of both lawyers and lawyer shows, thereby providing us with a wealth of great sponsors like “Happy Fun Ball” and “Dog Assassin.” The most important lesson he taught me was that, as an attorney, no matter who your client is or what the pertinent legal issues are, the case is always, always about you. That, and “I’ll sue you and your whole crummy airline” is the perfect threat, whether you’re drunkenly yelling it at a flight attendant, a confused child or an inanimate object.

Lionel Hutz. Remember a minute ago when I was praising the sh*t out of Phil Hartman? Doing it again. Not only was Keyrock possibly the second best lawyer he ever played (let the arguments ensue), Lionel Hutz may only have been the second best character he voiced on The Simpsons (I ride or die for Troy McClure). But Hutz is my man too.

Hutz serves as an important reminder, rare on television, that a lot of lawyers are f*cking terrible. Of course, you should also remember that most people are terrible at their jobs and lawyers are, for lack of a better word, people. So if you want to be successful, you don’t have to be great at your job, you just have to less bad than almost everybody, and in the legal profession, the bar (wordplay!) is low.

Another lesson learned: bar association logos are edible.

Tyrion Lannister. Fine, Tyrion is not technically a lawyer on Game of Thrones. He has, however, been forced to act as his own attorney in a murder trial, which is some bullsh*t, especially since he wasn’t permitted to call any witnesses in his own defense. The cliche is that any lawyer who represents himself has a fool (or a cheap bastard) for a client. Tyrion is no fool, although if you’re going to freak out every time a prostitute testifies against you, then by all means, hire a professional.

As If I Was Going to Leave Out Saul Goodman. I think we’re all juuust over Breaking Bad fatigue, so I feel OK mentioning the excellent lawyer on what might be my favorite series ever. Actually, there were some good lawyers on The Wire, which also might be my favorite series ever [Vince's Note: Love them both, but The Wire > Breaking Bad forever]. But none of them was as crucial to the show as Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman. Here’s a sampler to refresh your memory, although if you’re so inclined you can find enough Saul video on YouTube to keep you busy until two weeks after you’re dead:

Dude even has a still-functioning website. The character embodies the new LA adage–you can find some pretty good restaurants in strip malls. Fine, I might have to rephrase that before it achieves adage status, but the point is that, like Unfrozen Caveman and unlike Hutz, Saul’s appearance belies the fact that he is extremely good at his job. He’s surprisingly adept at the lawyerly parts of it, but his services comprise so much more–he essentially knows a lot of guys who know a lot of guys. The one question about him that’s never resolved is why he does what he does–I mean, yes, money, but money for what? He doesn’t seem to live all that large.

Odenkirk’s performance cannot be overpraised. As great as he was on Mr. Show–and holy sh*t, you need to watch that if you haven’t–there was no indication that a comedic actor could fit so well into an extremely grim show. That said, I assume the spinoff series will blow, but I’ve been wrong before.

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2. Porn Star Hurtling story. Real quick:

“Dan Bilzerian, pro poker player, son of a multimillionaire Wall Street banker . . . made headlines last month after he threw porn star and model Janice Griffith off a roof into a pool during a photo shoot, breaking her foot in the process.”

Need to see a video of that? Of course you do:

The article I linked to above discusses Griffith’s demand letter to Bilzerian, and his lawyer’s snarky response. Yes, there is such thing as “assumption of risk,” meaning that if you agree to be thrown off of a roof into a pool, you can’t act surprised when you get injured in the process. However, for my sins, I am more likely to represent the Bilzerians of the world than the Griffiths. And rich guys who throw naked women off of roofs are assuming a risk too, just like guys who put golf tees in women’s asses (note: if misogyny is your thing, keep it simple; like, pay female prostitutes 70% of what you pay the men). So, to my wealthy hedonistic readers wondering if they should hurl women into pools, my expert advice is that no, no you should not. If you absolutely need a woman thrown, subcontract that labor. I know a guy.

Twitter: @Buttockus


TAGSBUTTOCKUS FINCHDAN BILZARIANFICTIONAL LAWYERSFILMDRUNK LAW REVIEWHOLLYWEIRD LEGAL ROUND UPlionel hutzsaul goodman

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