Boston Legal Way Classier Than Beauty and the Geek?

Thanks to all the readers who wrote in last week with news that Freakonomics was mentioned on the TV show Boston Legal.

It happened at the end, when the William Shatner character and the James Spader character were having their ritual end-of-the-episode scotch, musing about law and the world.

Alan Shore (Spader): Well, it’s possible Roe v. Wade has brought our crime rates down.

Denny Crane (Shatner): How do you figure?

A.S.: Well, Roe became law in the ’70’s. Studies have shown that the typical child that went unborn after Roe was more likely to come from poor families, single parents — the very children most likely to grow up to become criminals. After Roe became law, many of those children were being aborted. The would-be criminals of the ’90’s weren’t around because they were never born in the ’70’s.

D.C.: You’re making all this up.

A.S.: I’m not making it up. There’s a book. Freakonomics. Read it! (beat) You’re still not reading?

D.C.: Only newspapers. (beat) It’s un-American!

The Spader character paraphrases quite well the Levitt/Donohue argument that we wrote about in Freakonomics. (At least the writer/s who gave him the words did.)

What was interesting to me was how forthcoming people were about having heard the book mentioned on the show. We must have gotten 10 or 15 e-mails about it (thanks to all of you), and 8 or 10 people I know mentioned it when I saw them — my kid’s teacher, some neighbors, etc. None of them made any qualms about the fact that they’d been watching Boston Legal.

This was in direct contrast to my experience last year when I appeared on the goofy, lovable reality show Beauty and the Geek.

Again, I heard from a lot of people who saw it. But none of them would admit that they’d actually been watching on their own volition. It was always either “My teenager was watching Beauty and the Geek, and I saw you …” or “I happened to be flicking past this channel and caught you on this show, Beauty and the Geek …”

Which leads me to wonder if it’s considered tackier to watch a show like Beauty and the Geek or to appear on it. In either case, it is plainly a far cry less classy than Boston Legal.


I watch a pretty hefty amount of TV (I blame the DVR). It was pretty cool to see Freakonomics mentioned on the show.

Boston Legal and Top Chef are the only shows that I'd be really sad to see go off air, and this is the last season for Boston Legal. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Now, how do we get a nod to the book on Top Chef...?

Artemis Gordon

Leo Kahane, David Paton, and Rob Simmons offered a differing analysis of the abortion vs. crime link in the journal Economica. Their argument in brief is the ever-present mantra: correlation is not causation.


This is unrelated to the post, but I think you should require people greet you with a tip of the tophat and a cheerful Cockney "Top a the mornin', Dub-na!"


It is funny how none of the comments are really linked to your original post regarding whether people like to hide that they watch some of the shows such as "Beauty and the Geek".

Maybe if you ask that question in this forum, the stigma attached with watching the show will decrease and more people will come forward saying that they watch the show and saw you on it.

There might be some social incentives/disincentives playing their part in this case.


The rich folks just lobby to have their greedy crimes legalized (as in deregulation)


B&G may be tacky, but my husband and I love it and unabashedly have a season pass for the show on Tivo. (Granted, we are also the show's target demographic.) In fact, I vividly remember that episode - it was what made me decide to check out Freakonomics in the first place.

Doug B

Funny, I find Beauty and the Geek much classier than Boston Legal. Something about James Spader that I never really liked, and his character on BL I find particularly appalling. I much prefer the real people on B&G.


I'd want to agree, but recently I heard what is coming on a script on Boston Legal about the last election. To put it mildly it's insulting and classless. Basically they make who ever voted for Mccain sound like an uneducated idiot... all 55 million of them. Well not just so much as sound, but rather insulting them as such. I don't care if it's the most racist hated person on that show who says it, going out of their way to insult almost one half of the voting population should be unacceptable by anyone's standards.


Boston Legal is a terrific show with some of the sharpest writing in television. The relationship between the characters Alan Shore and Denny Crane is brilliantly developed, and those set pieces at the end of each episode are themselves plays in miniature. It's no surprise that Freakanomics would get a mention, or that readers of such a smart book would own up to hearing it mentioned on such a smart show. But now I must confess that I had never heard of Beauty and the Geek before reading this post... What am I missing?


Freakonomics,that is! Sorry....


Kinglink - the episode to which you refer ran Monday night (17th).

What you "heard" and what actually was presented are not one and the same.

The storyline discussed voters who selected a candidate on appearance alone or a variety of superficial reasons.


I thought that abortion link had been discredited. Perhaps I heard wrong.

Connie Godin

David Kelly - what will he give us next. He is truly so talented.


I didn't know there was any doubt that Boston Legal was far more classy than Beauty and the Geek.

Honestly, an over-the-top show about law vs. a forced, awkward, intimate relationship based-on-looks tv show in a contest... the law tv shows always win.



I've never seen this Boston Legal show you speak of, but in the evening, after the nanny has put the children to bed, I enjoy an opportunity to get out of my tuxedo and into a robe and slippers, put my feet up on the ottoman, sip a glass of sherry, and watch Beauty and the Geek.


anyone have a youtube of Dubner on Beauty and the Geek?


Never seen BL. B&G is a fun show. I think it's become overly fashionable to bash reality shows. Many of them are crap but then so are many sitcoms. I will say that the first season of B&G was best and ever since it's been more of a parody of itself since the contestants now know what they are getting into.

I have also heard that the abortion/crime link is troubled. Reasoning I heard is that the decline in crime was global but the legalization was not uniform globally. Simple answers are probably all suspect on this issue.

So I can't compare the two. But I'd put in a mild endorsement for B&G. For reference, I also like the Wire, Buffy, Veronica Mars, Scrubs and Freaks & Geeks.

Bobby G

I gotta say, this is a pretty cool shout out. I wish I got a shout out on Boston Legal... and I don't even watch the show.

Unembarrassed Beauty & the Geek devotee

Beauty & the Geek has a lot going for it. First, it's almost always interesting, and often genuinely moving, to see the development of each group, the unshackling of embedded insecurities, and the unexpected, deeply supportive friendships that develop. Second, it obviously represents a fantasy for a large percentage of Freakonomics devotees --a popular, socially confident beauty sees past their awkwardness and non-buffness, admires them for their intelligence, and even more importantly, sees them as socially (and perhaps even sexually) desirable. Third, it's just nice to see smart people talk on television (in a self-reflective rather than pontificatory mode).