Arguably one of the most prolific writer-producers in small screen history, former attorney David E. Kelley created some of television's quirkiest and unconventional shows, particularly in the normall...
Waterville, Maine, USA
|Ray Walston: No Antennae, Please||1999 1998 - 1999||Actor||Interviewee||19997|
|The 2001 TV Guide Awards||2000 1999 - 2000||Actor||Honoree||20007|
|The "L.A. Law" 100th Episode Special||1990 1989 - 1990||Actor||n/a||19907|
|Today at Night||1993 1992 - 1993||Actor||n/a||19937|
|Frankie and Johnny are Married||2004||Actor||Himself||20047|
|TV's Greatest Surprises: A Paley Center Media Special||2009 2008 - 2009||Actor||n/a||20097|
|The 2001 TV Guide Awards||2000 1999 - 2000||Actor||n/a||20007|
|Thirteenth Annual Genesis Awards||1998 1997 - 1998||Actor||n/a||19987|
|Chicago Hope||1999 1993 - 1999||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Harry's Law||2011 2009 - 2011||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Monday Mornings||2012 2011 - 2012||Showrunner||n/a||1|
|Ally McBeal||2001 1996 - 2001||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Boston Public||2003 1999 - 2003||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|girls club||2002 2001 - 2002||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Ally||1999 1998 - 1999||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Practice||2003 1995 - 2003||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Picket Fences||1995 1991 - 1995||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Snoops||1999 1998 - 1999||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|L.A. Law||1993 1985 - 1993||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Boston Legal||2008 2003 - 2008||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Law Firm||2004 2003 - 2004||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire||2003 2002 - 2003||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|The Wedding Bells||2006 2005 - 2006||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday||1996||Producer||n/a||3|
|Monday Mornings||2012 2011 - 2012||Executive Producer||n/a||1|
|Doogie Howser, M.D.||1992 1988 - 1992||Supervising Producer||n/a||1|
|Chicago Hope||1999 1993 - 1999||Creator||n/a||2|
|The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire||2003 2002 - 2003||Writer||n/a||1|
|The Wedding Bells||2006 2005 - 2006||Writer||n/a||1|
|Boston Public||2003 1999 - 2003||Creator||n/a||2|
|Picket Fences||1995 1991 - 1995||Creator||n/a||2|
|girls club||2002 2001 - 2002||Writer||n/a||1|
|Ally McBeal||2001 1996 - 2001||Creator||n/a||2|
|Ally||1999 1998 - 1999||Writer||n/a||1|
|To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday||1996||Screenplay||n/a||1|
|The Practice||2003 1995 - 2003||Creator||n/a||2|
|From the Hip||1987||Screenplay||n/a||1|
|Boston Legal||2008 2003 - 2008||Creator||n/a||2|
|Harry's Law||2011 2009 - 2011||Creator||n/a||2|
|The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire||2003 2002 - 2003||Creator||n/a||2|
|The Crazy Ones||2013 2012 - 2013||Creator||n/a||2|
|girls club||2002 2001 - 2002||Creator||n/a||2|
|Ally||1999 1998 - 1999||Creator||n/a||2|
|The Wedding Bells||2006 2005 - 2006||Creator||n/a||2|
|Ally||1999 1998 - 1999||From Story||n/a||1|
|From the Hip||1987||From Story||n/a||1|
|Snoops||1999 1998 - 1999||Writer||n/a||1|
|Snoops||1999 1998 - 1999||Creator||n/a||2|
|Wrote, created and executive produced the ABC legal drama "The Practice"; fired most of the original cast in the 2003 season to keep the cost down, but added James Spader as a lead character|
|Created and executive produced the ABC drama series "Snoops"|
|Scripted the hockey-themed feature "Mystery, Alaska"|
|Served as writer, co-creator (with Bochco) and executive consultant on "Doogie Howser, M.D."; wrote premiere episode but involvement lessened with each passing season|
|Created, wrote pilot (and most of first season's episodes) and executive produced the CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope"; dropped executive producer duties after one season, retaining title of 'executive consultant'; returned in spring 1999 to pen the seaso|
|Co-produced and scripted "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday", adapting it from a play by Michael Brady; wife Michelle Pfeiffer co-starred as Gillian|
|Wrote, created and executive produced the Fox series "Ally McBeal"; in fall 1999, Fox aired "Ally", a half-hour version of the series culled from previously aired material edited with unaired segments to create stand alone episodes; that half-hour version|
|Feature screenwriting debut, "From the Hip"|
|Formed own production company (David E Kelley Productions) and created, wrote and executive produced "Picket Fences" for CBS; relinquished executive producer reins for final season|
|Created and executive produced the FOX drama "Girl's Club"|
|On the strength of his then unproduced "From the Hip" screenplay, recruited by executive producer Steven Bochco to work as writer and consultant on NBC's "L.A. Law"; quickly became show's head writer; assumed co-producer status as of the 1987-1988 season,|
|Raised in the Boston, Massachusetts area|
|Developed an unscripted series for NBC, a legal drama pitting contestants with law degrees against each other in a race for a partner position at a law firm|
|Worked for three years in the litigation department of the mid-size Boston law firm Fine & Ambrogne, specializing in real estate and minor criminal cases|
|Wrote the black comedy-thriller "Lake Placid", starring Bridget Fonda as a paleontologist who teams with an eccentric billionaire to solve a mysterious death|
Born on April 4, 1956 in Waterville, ME, the future television creator was the son of Jack Kelley, famed World Hockey Association coach of the New England Whalers, which later became the NHL's Hartford Whalers. After moving around several small towns in Massachusetts, his family eventually settled in Belmont, where he attended The Belmont Hill School. He moved on to Princeton University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in political science and was captain of the hockey team. During his junior year at Princeton, Kelley displayed his flair for the unconventional by submitting a paper for a political science class about John F. Kennedy's plot to assassinate Fidel Castro in verse. The next year, he turned the Bill of Rights into a play, turning the original 10 amendments into a distinct character. After spending a year playing professional hockey in Arosa, Switzerland, Kelley returned to the States in order to earn his law degree from Boston University, graduating with his juris doctor in 1983. For the next three years, he worked in the litigation department at the mid-size Boston firm, Fine & Ambrogne, typically handling mundane real estate and minor criminal cases.
Finding his work exceedingly boring, Kelley began writing a screenplay during his spare time, penning in longhand on a legal pad a tale about an overly ambitious legal eagle of questionable character. Though the resulting movie, "From the Hip" (1987), starring Judd Nelson as the unscrupulous young lawyer, was a disappointing comedy that nonetheless caught the attention of executive producer Steven Bochco, who was looking for writers with a legal background for his new series, "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994). Kelley was quickly hired as a staff writer and quickly graduated to story editor. Eventually he became the executive producer after Bochco left to develop other shows, including "Doogie Howser, M.D." (Fox, 1989-93), which Kelley also co-created. Forming his own production company, David E. Kelley Productions, he created the critically-acclaimed, Emmy-winning "Picket Fences" (CBS, 1992-96), a quirky small town drama set in the fictional Rome, Wisconsin. Kelley peopled the village with a collection of mildly eccentric characters and also mixed serious topics with extraneous, often silly subplots, with the resolutions of more issues often taking place inside the courtroom. Starring Tom Skerritt as the town's sheriff and Kathy Baker as his doctor wife, the show's slightly demented tone was an acquired taste for many viewers, resulting in a constant struggle for ratings. CBS's refusal to move the show from its dead-end Friday night time slot offered little assistance.
Though the show lasted only four seasons, "Picket Fences" was a critical darling that earned a slew of award nominations, resulting in two Emmy wins for Outstanding Drama Series in 1993 and 1994. While still cranking out scripts for the show, Kelley created and executive produced the medical drama, "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), which went toe-to-toe with another, more popular hospital show, "ER" (NBC, 1994-2010). Over the course of that insanely busy year, Kelley wound up writing over 40 one-hour episodes for both shows, displaying both his prodigious talent and almost obsessive need for control. The enormous output understandably left him burnt out. Turning over executive producing duties on both series the following season to spend more time with his family, Kelley wound up scripting only a few of the episodes. "Chicago Hope" managed to continue despite losing singing surgeon Mandy Patinkin and hospital legal counsel Peter MacNicol; the latter of whom left because of the creator's reduced role, just like Harry Hamlin did with "L.A. Law" when Kelley departed in 1992. In the end, it was "Picket Fences" that failed to survive Kelley's lack of involvement, due in part to a large decline in the show's quality.
While on hiatus, Kelley scripted and coproduced "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" (1996), an adaptation of Michael Brady's stage tearjerker that starred his wife, Michelle Pfeiffer, whom he had married in 1993. A sorrowful tale about a man (Peter Gallagher) unable to overcome the death of his wife (Pfeiffer), "Gillian" languished in maudlin sentimentality that failed to reach any meaningful depth. Turning back to his forte, Kelley created "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), a much grittier and realistic look at a law firm - this time set in Boston - than the glitzy "L.A. Law." Initially slated in the no-man's land of 10 o'clock on Saturday night, the show struggled on life support, only to become rejuvenated after winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. Also that fall, he debuted "Ally McBeal" (1997-2002), a wildly experimental legal show that became an immediate sensation because of its fun, hip, unconventional representation of a confused young lawyer (Calista Flockhart) who works in a Boston firm filled with other self-absorbed, neurotic associates. Once again, Kelley was writing practically all the episodes for both shows by himself. This time burnout was not a factor, as both expressed different sides of his creativity, each offering escape from the other. Staff writers on both shows, however, expressed their boredom and frustration with his inability to delegate writing responsibilities.
If he had been off the zeitgeist mark with "Picket Fences," Kelley was right on target for "Ally McBeal." Fantasy elements like the dancing baby, Ally's outrageously long tongue and the voice of Barry White that motivates John 'The Biscuit' Cage (Peter MacNicol) captivated audiences almost immediately. Just like he did with "Chicago Hope," Kelley made music an integral part of the show, featuring Vonda Shepard's original songs and pleasant cover versions in every episode, as well as allowing almost every ensemble member a periodic vocal showcase. While "The Practice" addressed universal problems like insecurity, failure and embarrassment, it was Ally McBeal" that became the popular heavyweight. Returning to the feature world, he scripted two more movies, "Lake Placid" (1999), a character-driven horror flick in the vein of "Jaws" (1975) meets "Fargo" (1996), and "Mystery, Alaska" (1999), a small-town drama that drew upon his love of hockey. But the real story was the continued success of "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal," both of which earned him Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and even two Peabody Awards.
For the 1999-2000 season, Kelley found himself in control of his fifth primetime series. Not only had he resumed work on "Chicago Hope," but he had introduced the detective series "Snoops" (ABC, 1999-2000), a comedic drama about an unconventional detective agency starring Gina Gershon as the private eye. Despite solid ratings its initial season, Kelley made the unusual decision to end the show after the network decided to put it up against ratings juggernaut "ER." Meanwhile, a repackaged "Ally McBeal" called "Ally" (Fox, 1999-2000) began airing alongside the original show. A 30-minute version assembled from re-edited or unused scenes, "Ally" took on a decidedly comic bent compared to its dramatic forefather. But the experiment failed to catch on with the viewing public, resulting in the show's cancellation after 10 episodes. With the axing of "Ally McBeal" after the 2001-02 season following a drastic ratings drop, Kelley returned to the fore with a new series, "girls club" (Fox, 2002) which featured three single women (Gretchen Mol, Chyler Leigh and Kathleen Robertson) working as lawyers in San Francisco. A disaster from the start, the show was hammered by critics before being put out of its misery after just two aired episodes.
The fifth series he was involved with at the beginning of the new century was "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04), a typically Kelley-esque drama set in a fictional public school in Boston that is populated by quirky characters. Told from the point of view of a dedicated, but overwhelmed principal (Chi McBride), "Boston Public" used its irreverent style to tackle various social issues faced by teenagers, including sexuality, drug use and violence. Though hailed by critics and the recipient of several award nominations, the show struggled in the ratings and found itself canceled after four seasons without the opportunity to wrap out several continuing storylines. While the cracks were starting to show, Kelley remained one of the most prolific and successful show creators on television. In 2003, "The Practice" was suffering from declining ratings and an over-bloated budget, which forced a drastic reduction in costs. Six members of the original cast were fired, including the show's star, Dylan McDermott. Populated with a new cast that included James Spader as Alan Shore, a lawyer who skirts ethical rules typically for ethical reasons, "The Practice" returned for an eighth and final season. Meanwhile, the series was spun-off into the even more popular and successful "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08), which also included William Shatner as the eccentric, womanizing and sheep-loving Denny Crane. Though the series itself never won awards for Best Drama, both Spader and Shatner earned Emmys for their performances.
While relishing success in the fictional world, Kelley tried his hand at reality television with "The Law Firm" (NBC/Bravo, 2005), which pitted 12 young lawyers against each other for a $250,000 grand prize and a partnership at a law firm. Canceled by NBC after just two weeks on the air, the show wrapped out its remaining episodes on sister network Bravo. Turning back to scripted series, Kelley created and executive produced "The Wedding Bells" (Fox, 2007), a comedic drama about three sisters (KaDee Strickland, Teri Polo and Sarah Jones) who inherit their parents' wedding planning business after their divorce. Poor reviews and low ratings sank Kelley's effort in less than two months on the air. Following a failed attempt to bring the father-daughter legal dramedy, "Legally Mad," to small screens, Kelley created "Harry's Law" (NBC, 2011- ), which starred Kathy Bates as a recently fired patent lawyer who gathers together a group of misfit lawyers and runs an unconventional practice out of a rundown shoe store.
|Claudia Kelley||Daughter||born c. 1993; adopted by wife Michelle Pfeiffer in March of 1993; christened on November 13, 1993, given the name of Kelley|
|Michelle Pfeiffer||Wife||Married Nov. 13, 1993; adopted daughter Claudia christened at same ceremony|
|The Belmont Hill School|
|School of Law, Boston University|
|In 1999, Kelley became the first producer to win Emmy Awards in both the Drama Series and Comedy Series categories in the same year.|
|"If you interview people or friends who work with me, they would say I'm private or internal or don't emote a lot. Yet I do it every day for 10 million people. I just don't do it for the 30 people I'm in the room with . . .
"One thing I know I do now is that when I'm writing anything--if it's not in the front of my mind, then it's in the back of my mind--it's that my children will see it, my grandchildren will see it. If they ever ask me, 'Why did you write that?' I'll have an answer, and it won't be because I thought a lot of people would watch or that it was because I thought the networks would program it. That makes you a more resonsible producer." --David E Kelley quoted in Los Angeles Times Magazine, November 30, 1997.
|"The ideal time for writing a script is four days, though sometimes it has to be two or three days depending on the deadline. If it's two days, sometimes there are things I see that don't work as well. If I have two weeks, the scripts get kind of flabby and lack the adrenaline that a sense of deadline fills you with ...
"I never even in college thought writing was something I intended to do. I guess I probably had characters in my head as a kid but never thought I'd put them into prime time," --Kelley quoted in The New York Times, March 2, 1998.
|"You know, he's like an idiot savant. I don't know if he could do anything else. It's like, can you understand how someone can drop a box of toothpicks and count how many there are? You can't. You'll never understand that. Well, that's like David Kelley. He's got a bunch of words all over the floor, and before you know it, there's just a script. He's just phenomenal that way. I can't figure it out. It hurts my brain when I try and figure out how he does what he does. I have read a lot of movies-of-the-week, for possible hiatus work, and a lot of them were legal dramas. But it's ridiculous to even consider doing another legal drama when you have David Kelley writing for you every week." --Camryn Manheim (of "The Practice") to Don Aucoin of The Boston Globe, April 11, 1999.|
|"He trusts himself creatively. He has pure talent, he has craft, and he has clearly found a way to tap into his imagination that doesn't take a lot of time. When you add to that a tremendous work ethic, that's a hell of a package." --Kelley's mentor Steven Bochco to Joel Stein in Time, May 31, 1999.|
|"David's only weakness as a writer is his unwillingness or his inability to let other writers into the process. He has such a clear idea of what he wants that it's just easier for him to do it than to guide someone else." --Bochco quoted in Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1997.|
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