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Picket Fences - Season 1
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Notable guests are a hallmark of every David E. Kelley production, from Chicago Hope to Boston Legal (and beyond). The first season attracted Carnivále's Michael J. Anderson ("Mr. Dreeb Comes to Town"), Evening Shade's Michael Jeter ("Frog Man"), and Man of La Mancha's Richard Kiley ("Thanksgiving"). The series also features one of the last of the old-fashioned orchestral scores, Stewart Levin's distinctive piano theme. Picket Fences ran for four seasons on CBS (when Kelley left between seasons three and four, ratings took a nosedive). Afterwards, Combs joined Charmed, Baker joined Kelley's Boston Public, and Holly joined NCIS. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Then there's the other nine-point-nine percent, in which the plot involves a real problem, worthy of the main characters' attention (and, therefore, the audience's as well). NYPD Blue, ER, and other shows with life-and-death professions fall in this category. (At least, the good ones do.)
Picket Fences, that last tenth of a percent, is the rarest of the rare, in that each episode seems to start off with the Idiot Plot, everyone getting stirred up by minor little things that should be solved easily...but then something very unusual happens. You slowly realize that this issue is much deeper and more complex than it first seemed. Pretty soon, the most innocuous of personality quirks has expanded into weighty moral, ethical and philosophical territory, and everyone's got an opinion worth considering, whether you agree with them or not. Ain't no slam-dunk solutions in Rome, WI.
I don't know how David Kelley did it, but he handed us the single most compelling drama series I've ever seen. There are shows I've enjoyed more, with characters I liked better, with action that was more satisfying (action in the story sense, not just violence), but few that compelled me to think like this one did. Even when things ended badly, horrible travesties of justice unfurling as we watched, I couldn't help but think, "I hate it, but I can see their point.Read more ›
Kelley first gained TV fame in the early 1990's by injecting his wry humor into Stephen Bochco's then-ailing lawyer show "L.A. Law." (Kelley penned the episode where wicked lawyer Rosalind Shays met her demise down a vacated elevator shaft.)
After that, Kelley settled at CBS, where he created -- and wrote or co-wrote -- the first season of "Picket Fences." It took place in the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin, meant to represent Everytown, U.S.A.
At first glance, you had to give the show credit just for daring to be out of the ordinary. The pilot episode alone featured the town's musical production of "Wizard of Oz," only to have the actor playing the Tin Man drop dead on-stage. (The town's newspaper can't resist running the headline, "If I Only Had a Heart Attack.")
As if that isn't enough, sheriff Jimmy Brock (the beautifully understated Tom Skerritt) has to contend with the town's first murder case. Mind you, no ordinary murder would do for this occasion; it consists of a housewife who was crammed into a running electric dishwasher.
"Picket Fences" never failed to exercise its flair for the bizarre. But upon second glance, the offbeat stories were merely attention-getters for some of TV's best fleshed-out characters. Among them were Jimmy's family (including Holly Marie Combs, later to star in The WB's "Charmed"), headed by his doctor/wife Jill (Kathy Baker). And in Kelley's seeming take-off on "Law and Order," the town's many legal cases were overseen by Judge Henry Bone (Ray Walston) and ambulance-chasing lawyer Douglas Wambaugh (deservedly Emmy-winning Fyvush Finkel).Read more ›
While I was in law school my constitutional law professor regularly demanded his students watch this show, and darn if he wasn't right. Pretty much every hot button constitutional law issue made it's way into one of the plotlines sooner or later, and in a way that was just so much more fun than reading caselaw!
Hopefully they will release this soon. I never saw the whole series and I'm waiting with baited breath for years.
Add to this a capable ensemble of actors featuring, amongst others the late Ray Ralston as the acerbic, sharp-tongued judge who more and more became the moral conscience of the series, and you have a serious keeper for your DVD library.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a teenager in South Africa, I used to LOVE this show. Now that I'm a grownup, I realise it's not that great. Still, it IS better than most American TV shows I've ever seen.Published 1 month ago by Chimmy
One of the greatest television programs of all time. Just checkout the number of awards it received. It lasted only 4 seasons, but it made its mark in television history. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robert J. LaVoie
We watched Picket Fences when it was in its last season and really liked it. Now we are understanding more about the last season and really enjoying it. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Librarian
A little dated, but always deals with life in a controversial and thoughtful way.Published 4 months ago by penny brown
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