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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

R is for Rome

Don't you just hate it when you can't remember things? There was this TV show I used to watch regularly. I remembered just about everything about it: the producer -David E. Kelley; the cast, the network (CBS), the locale (the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin), just about everything but its name: Picket Fences.

Before this program, Kelley may have been best known as the creator of a show about a doctor living with his family. Pretty standard fare, except that the doctor is not yet 21 and is conflicted between having fun with his teen peers and learning from his medical peers. This would be Doogie Howser, M.D., an ABC-TV sitcom starring Neil Patrick Harris. Kelley was also the head writer on L.A. Law., taking over from Steven Bochco, and introduced the memorable character of Rosalind Shays, played by Diana Muldaur.

Kelley, though, really got weird with Picket Fences, which dealt with small town life. The main characters were Jimmy Brock, the sheriff and his wife Jill, the town doctor, with their three children. Bizarre crimes and other odd things, including spontaneous human combustion take place in this seemingly idyllic place. Quoting an imdb contributor: "It seems that all the crimes that have occurred in the whole of the United States have at one point or another happened in Rome and they have to deal with it in their own quirky way."

The show is the forerunner of Chicago Hope (1994-2000), Ally McBeal (1997-2002), The Practice (1997-2004), Boston Public (2000-2004), and Boston Legal (2004-2008).

I've noticed that many of the actors either continued working with Kelley and/or on something odd:
Tom Skerritt played sheriff Jimmy Brock. He was on the current show Brothers and Sisters; his character drowned on the first episode yet he still shows up occasionally.
Kathy Baker, played physician Jill Brock. She was the "hook lady" on Boston Public for about a dozen episodes and also appeared on episodes of other Kelley shows.
Holly Marie Combs played their oldest child, Kimberley. She's best known for playing Piper on Charmed.
Lauren Holly played deputy Maxine before turns on Chicago Hope and NCIS.
Ray Walston was the town's judge; he had a long and varied career, but is still best known as My Favorite Martian.
Fyvush Finkle was pain in the side defense attorney Douglas Wambaugh; he later played pain in the side teacher Harvey Lipschultz in Boston Public.

This is also the place I discovered Don Cheadle, who played D.A. John Littleton for a couple seasons before moving on to film fare such as Boogie Nights, Hotel Rwanda, and the Ocean's Eleven franchise.

I have not seen this program since it first aired. Season 1 is available on DVD. I remember the show fondly, but will it still hold up?
And now, for something completely different, discussion of a different Rome:

Here's the text.
Happy birthday to the Okie.



Reader Wil said...

I love the video:"What have the Romans done for us". I like this real British humour of John Cleese. And I always watch BBC programs like "What have the Victorians( or Tudors) done for us".... Thanks for your visit.

Marie Reed said...

I just checked if I could find the series picket fences on youtube:) I could only find zillions of videos on how to install a picket fence! LOL.. I'm off to watch your Life of Brian video! I know that I will just adore it!

anthonynorth said...

Coming from the UK, I'd never heard of that TV programme, but the video is a different matter entirely :-)

RuneE said...

"Life of Brian" is very near the top of my film list too. I'll have to admit I have never heard of the TV-series.

Thank you for the comment!

Miss_Yves said...

'"Life of Brian "is a very funny movie !
I had never heard of "picket fences"...
Thaks for your visit .

Lily Hydrangea said...

great R post and very funny video. thanks for the lol.

Tumblewords: said...

I'm not much of a tv watcher but surely enjoyed your narrative and video! Thanks!

Q said...

Very interesting R post. "Life of Brian" is very funny...

fluoxetine said...

I remember watching this show as a kid. Of course, at the time, I didn't think anything was weird about it. Then again, I guess compared to Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place, the weird factor of Picket Fences is a bit tame.

Leslie: said...

David Kelley is one talented producer! I've enjoyed all his series on TV and currently watch Bros & Sisters. I was so disappointed when Boston Public ended because I could SO relate to the education environment.