Picket Fences: Season One

Picket Fences: Season One
Television creator David E. Kelley loves legal shows (Ally McBeal, The Practice) and medical shows (Chicago Hope). In Picket Fences, one of his first series, he tried to merge the two. Ostensibly formed around the fictional community of Rome, Wisconsin, Fences centres on the Brock family: the patriarch Sheriff (Tom Skerritt), matriarch doctor (Kathy Baker) and their extended community (including a young Lauren Holly as a deputy). But the delightful interplay between a supporting character lawyer (played, at age 70, by Fyvush Finkle) and the town judge (Ray Walston) led Picket Fences back to the courtroom in almost every episode, nearly overshadowing the Brocks. Though Kelley has often cited the surreal insulation of Twin Peaks as an inspiration, this is as close to David Lynch as Michael Bay is to John Ford. And while the "quirky” residents of Rome add some flair to this, in retrospect, decidedly mainstream effort, what Picket Fences comes down to is an issue-of-the-week dramedy: AIDS victims, young lesbians, homicidal nuns, animal rights activists and transsexuals all make an appearance in this first of five seasons. Skerritt, Baker and the show all won surprise Emmys after season one but looking back, Picket Fences is most notable for providing the blueprint for every David E. Kelley show to follow. Familiar guest stars, themes and plot lines for everything from Boston Public to Boston Legal are found in Fences’ DNA. A brief and uninformative featurette is this set’s lone extra. (Fox)