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October 9, 2015

Picket Fences Season One -- DVD Review

by Meredith O'Brien, posted Jun 19th 2007 12:21PM

Picket Fences DVDIt won Emmys for the best dramatic series, best dramatic actor and best dramatic actress. Right out of the box. In season one.

Nearly 15 years ago.

So how does the first season of the controversial Picket Fences stand up to time, in its new DVD collection? After watching the pilot episode, seeing all those shoulder pads, hearing the heavy-handed background music during some of the scenes and watching "tough" police interrogations in the form of raised voices, my initial thought was, "Picket Fences didn't age well."

Then I watched more episodes. And changed my mind.

In Picket Fences' first season, which spanned 1992-1993, it addressed myriad issues that remain contemporary including: Euthanasia, polygamy, a physician with AIDS, transsexuality, separation of church and state, nativity scenes on public property, condoms in high schools, sex discrimination, fetal tissue transplants and teenage girls sharing a kiss while they try to discern their sexual preferences. Storylines included one about a mercy killing nun, a 74-year-old dating a 26-year-old, a Christmas pageant being canceled via court order, small-town hysteria over a transsexual teacher (who was slated to play Mary in the aforementioned Christmas pageant) and a mysterious severed hand winding up at an elementary school show and tell.

And before I knew it, aside from the fashions, Lauren Holly's old hairdo and references to the Clinton administration, the 15 years that have elapsed since the premiere of David E. Kelley's quirky series was a non-issue. It was easy to see why Kathy Baker (who played Jill Brock, the town doctor) and Tom Skerritt (who played Jimmy Brock, the town sheriff) won Emmys for their performances as the moral-yet-flawed centers of the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin.

However it was disappointing that the only extra in the six-disc set is a short featurette that includes interviews with most of the show's major players including Baker, Skerritt, Kelley, Holly, Holly Marie Combs (pre-Charmed) and Fyvush Finkel who played the kooky defense attorney, Douglas Wambaugh. Though I thought the interviews were too brief, I found it interesting to learn who had to be lobbied hard to join the Picket Fences cast and who wasn't initially considered a good fit for the show.

The DVD collection goes on sale today.

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This was the show that made me love all things David Kelley.....for a few years, anyway. Till I started seeing the same plot devices on ALL of his shows. And some others.

Still, his stuff is better than 98% of the crap out there now, and this particular series holds a soft spot in my heart. I'll be buying it.

June 19 2007 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Jones

This show is incredible. Its been pretty popular here in Europe, still airing today.

I'll pick up the DVD soon.


I agree Season 1 started shaky, the pilot is pretty unbearable ... but as was said, it gets better.

The problem with the show is it never had a perfect season, Season 2 had some real bombs and Season 3 lost it towards the end. The less said about Season 4, the better.

June 19 2007 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One bizarre thing about this set: it has obviously been remastered, but the credits were remade with some crappy font that has been squished in such a way that someone thought it looked like the old one -- instead, it looks like some schmo with a home computer put their own credits on a bootlegged copy. It is jarring.
It's the little things that annoy me, as you can tell.

June 19 2007 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob Walley

Got my copy first thing this morning. If you are into any of Kelley's shows (Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Chicago Hope and the Rosilind Shays era of L.A. Law) then you owe it to yourself to see Picket Fences from the beginning. It does hold up surprisingly well and it's amazing to see the actors that went on to bigger things from here. I, too, hope that the entire series makes it to DVD, but will be happy if the superior first and second seasons are the only ones. Holly Marie Combs on Boston Legal would be a great idea! Someone call David Kelley!

June 19 2007 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think "Picket Fences" was David E. Kelley's most successful long-term attempt to blend his keen legal mind and writing talent with the weirdness he seems to need to put in all of his series. (For short-term, I'd go with the first 1 1/2 seasons of "Chicago Hope".)
Both "Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal" are more comedies than dramas. I guess "The Practice" was his effort to get rid of the weird stuff, but I didn't find it as gripping as his other work.
I've also been waiting years for "Picket Fences" to make it to video. The stories were ahead of their time, and the cast was outstanding (in later seasons, Don Cheadle is the prosecutor). I hope the first set sells well enough to release the other seasons, although there was a severe quality dip in the final season.

June 19 2007 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loved this show. Loved it. Glad it's out on DVD, because I came to it late and there are plenty of episodes I haven't seen.

I seem to remember that the Holly Marie Combs character was pondering law school at some point -- it would be cool for her character to show up on Boston Legal.

June 19 2007 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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