Last week I posted a little congratulations to my old friend, the wonderful hopefully-soon-to-be-discovered-by-the-masses Fay Masterson for being cast in ABC's planned spinoff of The Practice. I also mentioned in that space that I used to be a really big fan of David E. Kelley. I'll go as far to say I was damn jealous of the man. So what the hell is he thinking now? A Practice spinoff featuring the one character people seem to like from that way-over-the-hill series is one thing. But according to today's Variety (subscription needed), he's now talking about developing a 1/2 hour sitcom to feature Camryn Manheim playing her Practice character Ellenor Frutt as a midseason replacement. According to Variety, the series "would have Ellenor returning home and interacting with her sisters."
Seriously, someone thinks this is a good idea? Is ABC that desperate to keep Kelley happy that they'll go along with this? Haven't we basically already seen that show when Ellen Degeneres did it a couple years ago? And that was without the complication of a previously established hard-nosed female character from a serious legal drama. And most importantly, maybe I'm alone here, but I have less than no interest at seeing Ellenor Frutt playing family sitcom. I'm sick of the character in its proper legal drama environment.
Has Kelley simply lost his mind?
He established himself writing for L.A. Law and creating Doogie Howser M.D.. Then, in 1992 he created one of the best all-around series of the '90s, the consistently quirky and always imepecably-written Picket Fences. And to top it off, the next year he married THE Michele Pfeiffer. Not the sister Dede or some look-alike, but the actual original stunningly gorgeous woman.
For a while after, he managed to be one of the best and most prolific writers and show-runners in all of network television. He was by far my favorite. The first year of Chicago Hope (which premiered in 1994 directly opposite ER) was actually really good, and it was the only season (until the end of that show's run) for which Kelley was 100% hands-on. He then premiered both Ally McBeal and The Practice in 1997, and each of those series were among the most creative and interesting shows -- for completely different reasons -- on TV for their first few seasons. The Practice held up a little longer, but both shows eventually started going to shit. Snoops was an unfortunate misfire, but Boston Public made it look like he was getting his game back. Sadly, that game lasted about one season before it became as absurd as a Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals farce. And then over the last two years, he's given us the truly terrible girls club and the brutally boring The Brothers of Polish, New Hampshire. Throw in a few crappy film scripts not to mention the long, slow, excrutiatingly painful death of The Practice, and all evidence points to his needing professional attention.
Dare I speculate? Did he just have it too good? The successful (and really good) series; the nearly perfect (at least in physcal beauty) wife who seems to get better looking as she gets older; the fame, notoriety and freedom to create basically whatever he wants ... all so he could now churn out this shit!
An Ellenor Frutt family sitcom? (sigh) At least NBC and CBS should be happy. If these are the ideas ABC is using to reclaim audience share, they're going to be in third place for a little while longer.