“Eli Stone”: Legal Drama, with a Twist of Fantasy

Eli Stone: The Complete First Season
ABC Studios
Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Natasha Henstridge, Matt Letscher, and Victor Garber
Rated TV-PG
559 minutes (13 episodes on four discs)
Release Date: September 02, 2008

For the past four years, Lost has delivered elements of fantasy, the supernatural, and science-fiction to audiences willing to go along for the journey. Viewers have been witness to mysterious island-dwellers, polar bears, and an organization known as the Dharma Initiative. With these types of fantastical elements, Lost has become a success and continues to attract viewers. I would go so far as to say we keep watching because nothing is ever explained and we want to know the answers. In the case of the new series, Eli Stone, unexplained phenomena are a constant reminder that while there is a basic story taking place on one level, there is more going on than first perceived.

Eli Stone began as a mid-season replacement series on ABC Thursday nights after Lost. Eli (Jonny Lee Miller) is a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in San Francisco, when one day he begins to hear music in his head. Well, not just any music, George Michael (for the young people who don’t know who he is, he’s an international pop star who was big in the 80s. Just Google his name for more).

Is Eli crazy? His family and friends seem to think he is. His secretary asks him if he’s on drugs or fell down a flight of stairs as he starts to hear bells from out of nowhere. It turns out that Eli may not be insane. He may, in fact, be a prophet.

And so Eli’s journey into discovering what his visions and hallucinations mean lead him down paths he may not normally take. In the process, he puts his job, his relationships, and his life at risk. Helping him through this transition for lawyer to prophet is his acupuncturist who acts like a mentor to Eli.

Each episode presents the typical “case-of-the-week” storyline, which is supplemented by Eli Stone’s visions that guide his decisions and choices during the course of each show. These visions range from visions of past events in his life and bizarre happenings, to all-out dance numbers in the middle of Eli’s office building.

While it all seems like it’s a show suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder (is it a legal drama? A quirky comedy? a romantic comedy?), the series delves into issues like father/son relationships, sibling relationships, life and death, and the true meaning of commitment in a relationship. Along with these interpersonal stories, the “case-of-the-week” varies from free speech, medical malpractice, and a host of other relevant legal and Constitutional issues.

So, what exactly is the Lost tie-in? Well, while we are given an actual explanation for Eli’s hallucinations (a brain aneurysm), the question remains as to what the visions mean, what type of prophet he is supposed to be, and if he has the aneurysm removed if all these hallucinations will vanish. All are open-ended questions that have yet to be answered. Of course, if they take out his brain aneurysm and the visions do go away, the series is just another legal drama, and we can safely say the series will have jumped-the-shark.

You may notice that the head of Eli Stone’s law first is a familiar face. Jordan Wethersby is played by Victor Garber who played Sidney Bristow’s father on another ABC series, Alias. He also played Mr. Andrews in a small and obscure 1997 film Titanic. It made a little money at the box-office. And co-starred with Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (2001).

Eli Stone is a quirky legal fantasy-drama that is geared toward adult audiences. Those who like their courtroom dramas straight and without frills would be wise to stay away and stick to the Law and Order franchise. However, if you like your law with a little kick, a little spice, and musical production numbers, Eli Stone is for you.

This four DVD set includes all thirteen first season episodes. The fourth disc contains several interesting featurettes and a gag reel.

Eli Stone receives a grade of B. It has its feel-good moments, but I’m a Law and Order loyalist.

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