The real Street Legal story: Made in Canada
First, Street Legal was not a rip off or an answer to LA Law. The first Street Legal episodes were filmed during the Spring/Summer of 1986 - well before the Fall airing of the first LA Law episode. The copyright clearly states the year 1986 at the end of the first Street Legal episodes and the scenes were filmed when the season was Summer in Toronto.
Second, the first 6 episodes (Season 1) were quite awful and it was a miracle it was renewed (in one episode, Chuck backed a prize fighter - please, come on).The music was all over the place and did not fit. The writing was haphazard and the camera work was amateurish. The characters seemed to be all over the map.
That all changed with the first episode of Season 2. Although the funky theme song remained, both the in-episode music and the writing vastly improved. There were virtually no courtroom scenes in Season 1 - something that was immediately corrected in Season 2. The main characters really developed their own depth and character in Season 2. Issues began to dominate the writing, creating drama and characterization. It was a totally different show. Brenda Greenberg was the new executive story editor in Season 2 and began to turn the show into a high quality drama.
The show could have continued to build upon the new success of Season 2, however when Greenberg became executive producer in Season 3 the show (for better or for worse, depending upon how you perceive the changes) moved into more of a melodrama - storyline driven, stories continuing from episode to episode and throughout the season, characters reacting to the situations they were in. It became more "soap operaish" with these changes, including the addition of bitchy sexpot Olivia and the new raunchy theme song.
These changes launched the show into the stratosphere. Again, although the ratings were huge, the show faced criticsm as sacrificing quality drama for over the top melodrama. You can't deny however the show's popularity during this time. If it was over the top melodrama, it did it very well.
The show's high water mark occured when Leon ran for mayor and Chuck was charged with murder in Season 5 and the firm merged with a shady bigger firm led by RJ Williams in Season 6. The addition of new characters such as Alana, Dillion, Maloney, Laura and Rob only added to the show's popularity and strength.
The show "jumped the shark" however halfway through Season 6 when Carrie was run down in the street by a drunk judge. The departure of Sonja Smits was a huge blow and she couldn't be replaced. Her departure was always something of a mystery and the real story behind her leaving was blown out of proportion (conflict on the set, etc etc). She could afford to leave though as her husband was TV excecutive Seaton McLean.
The show was never the same after that and it even suffered from hit and miss writing over the last two seasons - something that was it's stength. It became harder for the writers to invent new twists and the ongoing battle between Chuck and Leon toward the end got tired. Although they tried to create an ongoing storyline in Olivia's movie, it too became tired. The spark that drove the series best years in Olivia, dimmed as she settled into married life, and that too became tired. Nada Harcourt, the executive producer of the last season, it seemed, was brought in to slug the series through an awkward last year. When the series ended, it was time.
Street Legal is one of the best and most successful Canadian series ever and all over the world it has a cult following, and rightly so. It was a fine piece of TV - unique and one of a kind.