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."

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

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his interest in law; on an early mentor
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
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
On the L.A. Law episode "Good to the Last Drop" (with the famous elevator drop), and why he left L.A. Law
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
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

Chapter 2

On Picket Fences' Emmy wins; on the show's legacy
On creating and exiting Chicago Hope; on his writing process; on the end of Chicago Hope
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
On having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
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
On creating Boston Public; on updating Wonder Woman; on creating Harry's Law

Chapter 3

On creating The Crazy Ones
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
On being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame; on his legacy in television; on the power of television
Shows

Ally McBeal

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David E. Kelley on the idea behind creating Ally McBeal - a romantic comedy
David E. Kelley on selecting the name for Ally McBeal
David E. Kelley on the snappy dialogue on Ally McBeal
David E. Kelley on the visual fantasies and the dancing baby on Ally McBeal
David E. Kelley on the popularity of the dancing baby on Ally McBeal
David E. Kelley on the music on Ally McBeal
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)
David E. Kelley on the Ally McBeal cover of Time magazine issue on feminism

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
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal
David E. Kelley on why Boston Legal came to an end
David E. Kelley on favorite episodes or issues on Boston Legal - the finale

Boston Public

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David E. Kelley on creating Boston Public

Chicago Hope

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David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope
David E. Kelley on returning to Chicago Hope
David E. Kelley on the end of Chicago Hope

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

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
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)

Harry's Law

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

L.A. Law

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

Picket Fences

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David E. Kelley on creating Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on the germ of the idea for Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on the tone of Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on some of the quirky elements of Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on casting Kathy Baker and Tom Skerritt on Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on his producing style on Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on his favorite storylines and episodes of Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
David E. Kelley on the legacy of Picket Fences

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
David E. Kelley on casting many unknowns on The Practice
David E. Kelley on significant cast changes during the final season of The Practice and spinning off Boston Legal
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)

Wonder Woman

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

9/11

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

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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

Emmy Awards

View Topic
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins
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)

First Big Break

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

Historic Events and Social Change

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

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)
David E. Kelley on favorite episodes or issues on Boston Legal - the finale

Pivotal Career Moments

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

Pop Culture

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

TV Theme Songs

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

Producers

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

Show Creators

View Profession
David E. Kelley on creating Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope
David E. Kelley on the idea behind creating Ally McBeal

Writers

View Profession
David E. Kelley on writing a lot of episodes of his shows himself (Chicago Hope and Picket Fences)
David E. Kelley on his writing process
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D.
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
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

Drama Series

View Genre
David E. Kelley on creating and producing Picket Fences
David E. Kelley on co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D.
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and writing and showrunning L.A. Law
David E. Kelley on Picket Fences' Emmy wins; on the show's legacy
David E. Kelley on creating and exiting Chicago Hope; on his writing process; on the end of Chicago Hope
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
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
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

Legal Dramas

View Genre
David E. Kelley on meeting Steven Bochco and writing and showrunning L.A. Law
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
David E. Kelley on having a strong point of view on issues on Boston Legal; on why the show ended
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

Medical Dramas

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

Kathy Baker

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

Steven Bochco

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

Calista Flockhart

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

Neil Patrick Harris

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

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)

Mandy Patinkin

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David E. Kelley on Mandy Patinkin returning to Chicago Hope

Tom Skerritt

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

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

Brandon Tartikoff

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

Robin Williams

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David E. Kelley on casting Robin Williams on The Crazy Ones

All Interviews

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