David E. Kelley

Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his just over two-hour Archive interview, David E. Kelley discusses life as a young litigator and starting to write a screenplay. He tells of his big break when Steven Bochco read that screenplay, and hired him as a writer on L.A. Law. He recalls becoming showrunner for the program in season three, and speaks about co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D. with Bochco - a program that had some difficulty getting to air. Kelley then details the creation of several of his other TV shows, including the quirky Picket Fences, medical drama Chicago Hope, and legal show T he Practice and its spinoff, Boston Legal. He also describes how he came up with the "romantic comedy" Ally McBeal, talks about the fantasy element of the show, and explains the importance of music on the program and how the dancing baby came to be. Kelley also discusses Harry's Law, Boston Public, 2011's Wonder Woman, and his half-hour show The Crazy Ones, starring Robin Williams. He talks about career regrets and highlights, and offers advice to aspiring writers and producers. Amy Harrington conducted the interview on March 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA.

"It sounds cliché, but the best award any show gets is when you hear from the people that had seen it that it moved them, made them laugh or made them cry, or occasioned them to look at life a little differently, or just flat out entertained them."

Highlights
David E. Kelley on writing the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator shaft scene)
03:32
David E. Kelley on the germ of the idea for Picket Fences
01:35
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope
03:38
David E. Kelley on James Spader joining the cast during the final season of The Practice and spinning off Boston Legal
02:59
David E. Kelley on the idea behind creating Ally McBeal - a romantic comedy
03:52
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his interest in law; on an early mentor
08:49
On attending Princeton University and Boston University Law school; on practicing law and beginning to write screenplays; on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law
06:00
On working with mentor Steven Bochco; on joining the writing staff of L.A. Law; on whether or not the show reflected the real lives of lawyers
14:12
On the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator drop), and why he left L.A. Law
05:54
On co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D. with Steven Bochco and ABC's reluctance to air the show; on casting Neil Patrick Harris as the lead
05:48
On creating Picket Fences; on the tone of the show and some of its quirky elements; on casting Kathy Baker and Tom Skerritt as the leads; on his producing style and favorite episodes of the show
17:35

Chapter 2

On Picket Fences' Emmy wins; on the show's legacy
03:44
On creating and exiting Chicago Hope; on his writing process; on the end of Chicago Hope
09:11
On creating The Practice, getting it picked up at ABC, and changing the storytelling of the show because of its time slot; on spinning off Boston Legal from The Practice
16:54
On having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
06:31
On creating Ally McBeal; on the dialogue, visual fantasies, the dancing baby, and the music on the show; on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal); on Ally McBeal's Time magazine cover
15:59
On creating Boston Public; on updating Wonder Woman; on creating Harry's Law
05:18

Chapter 3

On creating The Crazy Ones
03:56
On the key to creating a successful series; on his proudest career achievement so far; on career regrets and advice to aspiring writers and producers
04:14
On being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame; on his legacy in television; on the power of television
02:55
Shows

Ally McBeal

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David E. Kelley on the idea behind creating Ally McBeal - a romantic comedy
03:52
David E. Kelley on selecting the name for Ally McBeal
00:36
David E. Kelley on the snappy dialogue on Ally McBeal
02:09
David E. Kelley on the visual fantasies and the dancing baby on Ally McBeal
01:41
David E. Kelley on the popularity of the dancing baby on Ally McBeal
01:06
David E. Kelley on the music on Ally McBeal
01:27
David E. Kelley on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal)
04:12
David E. Kelley on the Ally McBeal cover of Time magazine issue on feminism
01:14

Boston Legal

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David E. Kelley on James Spader joining the cast during the final season of The Practice and spinning off Boston Legal
02:59
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal
03:54
David E. Kelley on why Boston Legal came to an end
01:49
David E. Kelley on favorite episodes or issues on Boston Legal - the finale
00:48

Boston Public

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David E. Kelley on creating Boston Public
01:06

Chicago Hope

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David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope
03:38
David E. Kelley on returning to Chicago Hope
01:07
David E. Kelley on the end of Chicago Hope
00:24

Doogie Howser, M.D.

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David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D. and ABC's reluctance to air the show
04:41
David E. Kelley on casting Neil Patrick Harris as the lead in Doogie Howser, M.D.
01:00
David E. Kelley on leaving Doogie Howser, M.D.
00:14

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
02:08
David E. Kelley on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal)
04:12

Harry's Law

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David E. Kelley on creating Harry's Law, originally Kindreds
02:50

L.A. Law

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David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law
01:09
David E. Kelley on joining the writing staff of L.A. Law and becoming showrunner by season three
04:41
David E. Kelley on whether or not L.A. Law reflected the lives of real lawyers
03:12
David E. Kelley on writing the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator shaft scene)
03:32
David E. Kelley on why and when he left L.A. Law
01:24
David E. Kelley on why L.A. Law was so popular
00:55

Picket Fences

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David E. Kelley on creating Picket Fences
01:20
David E. Kelley on the germ of the idea for Picket Fences
01:35
David E. Kelley on the tone of Picket Fences
02:05
David E. Kelley on some of the quirky elements of Picket Fences
02:43
David E. Kelley on casting Kathy Baker and Tom Skerritt on Picket Fences
03:44
David E. Kelley on his producing style on Picket Fences
04:31
David E. Kelley on his favorite storylines and episodes of Picket Fences
01:43
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
02:08
David E. Kelley on the legacy of Picket Fences
01:36

Practice, The (1997-2004)

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David E. Kelley on creating The Practice, getting it picked up at ABC, and changing the storytelling of the show because of its time slot
07:01
David E. Kelley on casting many unknowns on The Practice
03:42
David E. Kelley on significant cast changes during the final season of The Practice and spinning off Boston Legal
06:11
David E. Kelley on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal)
04:12

Wonder Woman

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David E. Kelley on his 2011 updated version of Wonder Woman
01:14
Topics

9/11

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David E. Kelley on creating Boston Legal in the post- 9/11 era
03:00

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
David E. Kelley on mentor Steven Bochco and what he learned from Bochco
06:17

Emmy Awards

View Topic
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
02:08
David E. Kelley on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal)
04:12

First Big Break

View Topic
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law
01:09

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
David E. Kelley on creating Boston Legal in the post- 9/11 era
03:00

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
David E. Kelley on writing the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator shaft scene)
03:32
David E. Kelley on favorite episodes or issues on Boston Legal - the finale
00:48

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
David E. Kelley on mentor Steven Bochco and what he learned from Bochco
06:17
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law
01:09

Pop Culture

View Topic
David E. Kelley on the importance of music in his shows, including Ally McBeal
02:23

TV Theme Songs

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David E. Kelley on the importance of music in his shows, including Ally McBeal
02:23
Professions

Producers

View Profession
David E. Kelley on his producing style on Picket Fences and now
04:31
David E. Kelley on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year
04:12

Show Creators

View Profession
David E. Kelley on creating Picket Fences
02:55
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope
03:38
David E. Kelley on the idea behind creating Ally McBeal
03:52

Writers

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David E. Kelley on writing a lot of episodes of his shows himself (Chicago Hope and Picket Fences)
01:58
David E. Kelley on his writing process
01:44
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D.
05:48
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
06:31
David E. Kelley on creating Ally McBeal; on the dialogue, visual fantasies, the dancing baby, and the music on the show; on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal); on Ally McBeal's Time magazine cover
15:59

Drama Series

View Genre
David E. Kelley on creating and producing Picket Fences
17:35
David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D.
05:48
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and writing and showrunning L.A. Law
21:15
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins; on the show's legacy
03:44
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope; on his writing process; on the end of Chicago Hope
09:11
David E. Kelley on creating The Practice, getting it picked up at ABC, and changing the storytelling of the show because of its time slot; on spinning off Boston Legal from The Practice
16:54
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
06:31
David E. Kelley on creating Ally McBeal; on the dialogue, visual fantasies, the dancing baby, and the music on the show; on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal); on Ally McBeal's Time magazine cover
15:59

Legal Dramas

View Genre
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and writing and showrunning L.A. Law
21:15
David E. Kelley on creating The Practice, getting it picked up at ABC, and changing the storytelling of the show because of its time slot; on spinning off Boston Legal from The Practice
16:54
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
06:31
David E. Kelley on creating Ally McBeal; on the dialogue, visual fantasies, the dancing baby, and the music on the show; on being the only producer in history to win Emmys for drama and comedy series in one year (The Practice and Ally McBeal); on Ally McBeal's Time magazine cover
15:59

Medical Dramas

View Genre
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope; on his writing process; on the end of Chicago Hope
09:11
People

Kathy Baker

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David E. Kelley on casting Kathy Baker and Tom Skerritt on Picket Fences
03:44

Steven Bochco

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David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and interviewing to work on L.A. Law
01:09
David E. Kelley on mentor Steven Bochco and what he learned from Bochco
06:17
David E. Kelley on Brandon Tartikoff's support of Kelley running L.A. Law
01:32
David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D.
04:41

Calista Flockhart

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David E. Kelley on Calista Flockhart's talents making voiceover unnecessary on Ally McBeal
00:34

Neil Patrick Harris

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David E. Kelley on casting Neil Patrick Harris as the lead in Doogie Howser, M.D.
01:00

Diana Muldaur

View Interview Page
David E. Kelley on writing the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator shaft scene)
03:32

Mandy Patinkin

View Person Page
David E. Kelley on Mandy Patinkin returning to Chicago Hope
00:21

Tom Skerritt

View Person Page
David E. Kelley on casting Kathy Baker and Tom Skerritt on Picket Fences
03:44

James Spader

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David E. Kelley on James Spader joining the cast during the final season of The Practice and spinning off Boston Legal
02:59

Brandon Tartikoff

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David E. Kelley on Brandon Tartikoff's support of Kelley running L.A. Law
01:32

Robin Williams

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David E. Kelley on casting Robin Williams on The Crazy Ones
00:34

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