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David E. Kelley (1956)

David Edward Kelley

Type :  

  Summary  

David Edward Kelley is an American television writer and producer, known as the creator of Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal and Harry's Law, as well as several films. Kelley is one of the only screenwriters to have had a show created by him run on all four of the top commercial U.S. television networks .

  Biography  

 early life
Kelley was born in Waterville, Maine, raised in Belmont, Massachusetts and attended the Belmont Hill School. He is the son of legendary Boston University Terriers and New England Whalers hockey coach Jack Kelley and played the game himself. Kelley was a stick boy for the Whalers during his father's time as coach and the captain of the hockey team at Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1979 with a degree in politics.

Demonstrating early on a creative and quirky bent, in his junior year at Princeton, Kelley submitted a paper for a political science class about John F Kennedy's plot to kill Fidel Castro, written as a poem. For his senior thesis he turned the Bill of Rights into a play. "I made each amendment into a character", he said. "The First Amendment is a loudmouth guy who won't shut up. The Second Amendment guy, all he wanted to talk about was his gun collection. Then the 10th Amendment, the one where they say leave the rest for the states to decide, he was a guy with no self-esteem." Also while at Princeton, he was a member of the Princeton Triangle Club.

He received his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law where he wrote for the Legal Follies, a sketch comedy group composed of Boston University law students which still holds annual performances. He began working for a Boston law firm, mostly dealing with real estate and minor criminal cases. In 1983, while considering it only a hobby, Kelley began writing a screenplay, a legal thriller, which was optioned in 1986 and later became the Judd Nelson feature film From the Hip in 1987.

 television work
 L.A. Law (1986–1994)

In 1986, Steven Bochco was searching for writers with a law background for his new NBC legal series, L.A. Law. His agent sent him Kelley's movie script for From the Hip. Enthusiastic, Bochco made him a writer and story editor for the show. During this first year, Kelley kept his law office in Boston as a hedge. However, his involvement in the show only expanded. In the second year, he became executive story editor and co-producer. Finally, in 1989, Bochco stepped away from the series making Kelley the executive producer. While executive producer, Kelley received two Emmys for Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series and the show received the award for Outstanding Drama Series for both years. For the first five seasons that he was involved with the show, he wrote or co-wrote two out of three episodes. Kelley left after the fifth season in 1991 and ratings began to fall. As Newsdays TV critic wrote, "The difference between good and bad L.A. Law ... was David Kelley." Midway through the sixth season, both Bochco and Kelley were brought in as creative consultants after the show received bad press about its decline in quality.
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 Picket Fences (1992–1996)

In 1992, after co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D. with his mentor Steven Bochco, Kelley formed his own production company, David E Kelley Productions, making a three-series deal with CBS. Its first creation, Picket Fences, airing in 1992 and influenced by Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure, focused on the police department in the fictional quirky town of Rome, Wisconsin. Kelley wrote most of the episodes for the first three years. The show was critically acclaimed but never found a sizable audience. Picket Fences went on for four years, receiving a total of 14 Emmy awards including consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series for its first and second seasons.

In 1995, the fourth and final season, Kelley wrote only two episodes. "We had almost 10 writers try to come in and take over for this one man", said Holly Marie Combs who played a character on the show. "The quality was not nearly what it was."
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 Chicago Hope (1994–2000)

Under pressure from CBS to develop a second series even though he didn't feel ready to produce two shows simultaneously, Kelley launched the medical drama Chicago Hope, starring Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin, which premiered in 1994. Airing at the same time as the season's other new medical drama, NBC's ER, the ultimate ratings leader, Chicago Hope plotted "upscale medicine in a high-tech world run by high-priced doctors". During its six year run, it won seven Emmys and generally high critical praise, but only middling ratings.

Originally intending to write only the first several episodes in order to return full-time to Picket Fences, Kelley eventually wrote most of the material for both shows, a total of roughly 40 scripts. Expressing a desire to focus more on his production company and upcoming projects, Kelley ceased day-to-day involvement with both series in 1995, allowing others to write and produce. Towards the end of the fifth season in 1999, facing cancellation, Kelley fired most of the cast members added since he had left the show, brought back Mandy Patinkin and began writing episodes again.
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 The Practice (1997–2004)

In 1995, Kelley entered into a five-year deal with 20th Century Fox Television to produce shows for both the ABC and FOX television networks, each agreeing to take two series. If one network passed on a project, the other got first refusal. Kelley retained full creative control. Ally McBeal on FOX and The Practice on ABC were the first two projects to come from this deal.

Premiering as a midseason replacement for the 1996-1997 season, The Practice was Kelley's chance to write another courtroom drama but one focusing on the less glamorous realities of a small law firm. The Practice would be the first of four successful series by Kelley that were set in Boston, proximal to his hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts. Receiving critical applause but low ratings in its starting seasons, it eventually became a popular top 10 program. The New York Times described the show as "the profoundly realistic, unending battle between soul-searching and ambition".
Full time writers on the first season of The Practice included David Shore, later the creator of House, Stephen Gaghan, a future Oscar winner for Traffic, Michael R. Perry, the creator of the 2011-12 series The River, and Ed Redlich, co-creator of the 2011-12 series Unforgettable. Later the writing staff would grow to 10, most with law degrees. By the fifth season, he would usually only edit the final script and was generally not on the set during filming.

In 2003, due to sagging ratings, ABC cut Kelley's budget in half for the eighth and final season. He responded by firing most of the cast and hiring James Spader for the role of Alan Shore, whom The New York Times described as "a lecherous, twisted antitrust lawyer with a breezy disregard for ethics." The final episodes of The Practice were focused on introducing the new characters from his next show, Boston Legal.
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 Ally McBeal (1997–2002)

When Ally McBeal premiered in 1997 on FOX, Kelley was also shepherding his other two shows, Chicago Hope and The Practice, although he was not actively participating in Chicago Hope at the time. The title character Ally is a young, attractive, impulsive, Harvard-educated lawyer described by a New York Times journalist as "stylish, sexy, smart, opinionated, and an emotional wreck." In contrast to The Practice and its idealistic lawyers, the law firm in Ally McBeal was founded only to make money.

The New York Times felt that the show uniquely emphasised "character and caricature". The show lasted five seasons, seven Emmys , mostly positive reviews and a barrage of criticism for its portrayal of women, with many journalists saying that the character Ally was a giant step backwards.

Parallel to The Practice, Kelley penned all the scripts for the first season, then brought in other writers in subsequent years although he continued to write many episodes himself.
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 Boston Public (2000–2004)

In 2000, 20th Century Fox Television extended its arrangement with Kelley. The deal, which ran for six years, reportedly made Kelley the highest-paid producer in TV history—up to $40 million a year—in return for a first-look at his projects.

Premiering on FOX in 2000, Boston Public, which follows the lives of teachers and administrators at a Boston high school, joined The Practice and Ally McBeal for the season, meaning Kelley was responsible for writing or overseeing 67 episodes.

The program was initially considered a modest hit but received less than glowing reviews. The previous season, Kelley stumbled with both the short-lived Snoops, his first attempt at delegating most of the responsibilities to others, and with Ally, the experiment with 30-minute shortened episodes of Ally McBeal. The TV critic from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opined that these failures and the weaknesses he saw in Boston Public were a sign that Kelley had lost the Midas touch. The show lasted four seasons, garnering one minor Emmy.
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 Boston Legal (2004–2008)

In addition to Snoops, Kelley continued to have a string of unsuccessful series: girls club in 2002, The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire in 2003 and the reality show The Law Firm in 2005. All the while, he continued overseeing Boston Public and The Practice.

Boston Legal on ABC, premiering in 2004, gave continuity and success to the Kelley franchise. It was a spin-off of his long-running legal drama The Practice, and followed attorney Alan Shore to his new law firm, Crane, Poole & Schmidt. It also starred veteran television actors Candice Bergen and William Shatner. Critically popular with less than spectacular ratings , the show was an "Emmy darling" during its run, winning seven times and being nominated over 25 times. The show won the Peabody Award in 2005 for its signature political commentaries.
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In 2007, Boston Legal began to see a rise of viewership as a result of its following ABC's popular Dancing with the Stars series, mostly ranking either first or second most-watched program of the evening in its ten o'clock time period, beating out CBS and NBC's shows.

The fifth and final season began in 2008 with Kelley writing most of the episodes. The season only aired thirteen episodes, making a series run of 101 episodes. The 2-hour series finale drew 11 million viewers. Still, the show drew over 15 million viewers much of its first season—and Kelley felt ABC's treatment of the show over the years ultimately killed it, saying to TV Guide that ABC always treated the show like its "bastard child." Boston Legal aired on four different nights in its five-season run, with the ratings slipping after each move. In the second-to-last episode of the series, Kelley blatantly wrote a show questioning the legitimacy of the Nielsen ratings and the network's treatment of the show by including a plot about a lawsuit against an unnamed television network.
In 2007, Kelley received the Justice in the Arts Award from Death Penalty Focus, an organization dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. He previously received an award from this organization in 2000 for his work on the show The Practice.

 2007–present

The Wedding Bells, premiered in Fall 2007 and was canceled after seven episodes. Additionally, Kelley worked on an Americanized version of the BBC show Life on Mars for the 2007-2008 season on ABC and also worked on an adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station. He later handed off production to another creative crew.

In May 2008, Kelley signed a deal with Warner Bros. Television and later penned a spec script for another legal drama entitled Legally Mad in a comic vein. NBC ultimately rejected the series. NBC will pay a two million dollar penalty to Warner Brothers for Kelley's scripts. Kelley is currently creator and executive producer of Harry's Law, which premiered on NBC on January 17, 2011. The series stars Kathy Bates in the titular role.
In 2011, Kelley wrote the script for the pilot episode of a new Wonder Woman TV series for Warner Bros. Television, but the pilot was rejected by NBC for its Fall 2011 lineup.

 personal life
Kelley married actress Michelle Pfeiffer in November 1993. They have two children: an adopted daughter, Claudia Rose , and a son, John Henry . Kelley is known for leaving work in time to be home in the evenings and weekends. Although he is sometimes assumed to be a Catholic because his programs address Catholic issues, Kelley was raised a Protestant.

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "David E. Kelley", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.