|David E. Kelley|
|Born:||4 April 1956|
|Occupation:||Writer, producer, lawyer|
|Spouse:||Michelle Pfeiffer (1993-present)|
|Emmyawards:||Outstanding Drama Series|
1989 L.A. Law
1990 L.A. Law
1991 L.A. Law
1993 Picket Fences
1994 Picket Fences
1998 The Practice
1999 The Practice
Outstanding Comedy Series
1999 Ally McBeal
Outstanding Writing - Drama
1990 L.A. Law
1991 L.A. Law
David Edward Kelley (born April 4, 1956) is an Emmy Award-winning American screenwriter and television producer, best known as the creator of Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public and Boston Legal, as well as several successful films. Kelley's body of work has become famous for including whimsical, often surrealistic comedic touches, interlaced with moments of pathos.
Kelley was born in Waterville, Maine, raised in Belmont, Massachusetts and attended the Belmont Hill School. He was the son of a hockey coach and played the game himself. He was 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 (J.D.) from Boston University School of Law where he wrote comedy sketches for the annual follies. 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. 
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 Newsday's 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.
In 1992, after co-creating Doogie Howser, M.D. with his mentor 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 quirky town of . 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 back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series for its first and second seasons.
In 1995, the fourth and final season, Kelley stopped writing 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."
Under pressure from CBS to develop a second series even though he didn't feel ready to produce two shows simultaneously, Kelley's medical drama, Chicago Hope, starring Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin, 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, 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 all cast members added since he had left the show, brought back Mandy Patinkin and began writing episodes again.
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. Receiving critical applause (along with two Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series) 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".
During the first two years of the series, Kelley was the sole full-time writer. He felt that at first the show creator can best flesh out the characters in a "voice-specific show." 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.
When Ally McBeal, Kelley's first genuine and influential hit, 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 (one for Outstanding Comedy Series for its second season), 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 a great many episodes himself.
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.
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 (a character introduced during the last season of The Practice, played by James Spader) 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 (ranked 27th for the first season, 46th for the second), the show has received four Emmys.
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 show's third season finale dominated other networks' shows.
His most recent new series, The Wedding Bells, premiered in Fall 2007 and was canceled after seven episodes. Kelley worked on an Americanized version of the BBC show Life on Mars for the 2007-2008 season on ABC, 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 has committed to initial production of Legally Mad.  
Kelley writes his first drafts longhand using a heavy metal Bic ballpoint and yellow legal pad. He easily churns out scripts in two to four days, initially working without collaboration, finding it faster and easier than trying to explain what he wants to others.
Kelley has been criticised for not delegating. A Picket Fences writer described his time on the show as "the most boring period of my life - you'd write a scene... [and Kelley would] rewrite it completely. Or he just cut you out completely - you learned nothing. Having a writing staff was a needless expense for the network." Kelley gradually became more comfortable bringing in writers for ideas and taking over writing responsibilities. Kelley described this as a natural evolution:
Kelley structures his episodes with multiple storylines. An episode may include a self contained subplot plus other story arcs that either began in a previous episode or will continue subsequently - some will continue the entire season. The viewer is thereby rarely sure whether what appears as a simple incident will blossom into a major plot point.
Kelley seeds his plots with political and social "hot-button" issues. One method is by introducing provocative legal cases. Episodes have covered the gamut of contemporary issues from the culpability of tobacco companies and gun makers to assisted-suicide crusaders. Another way is by undergirding the character's social interrelationships with serious explorations such as feminism, sexuality and divorce. Instead of lessons, Kelley strives to "raise moral and ethical questions without easy answers." He avoids a didactic narrative by not losing sight of the audience's desire to be entertained. He states:Instead of taking clear stands on issues such as, say, sexual harassment, Kelley creates scenarios meant to challenge audience preconceptions. For example an episode of Ally McBeal dealt with a female employee who sued for sexual harassment because she noticed that other prettier women were being promoted. There was deliberately no clear point of view.
Kelley uses humour and the surreal and mixes tragedy with farce. He describes his strategy as follows:
In Ally McBeal Kelley utilized two techniques: a voiceover providing an interior monologue for the titular character, and Walter Mitty fantasy sequences (ala Dream On as critics have noted) giving a humorous and often deeply honest (but sometimes ironic) explanation of the character's inner thoughts.  
Kelley frequently crossed the cast of different shows. One crossover program event (which crossed networks also) involved characters from Kelley's Ally McBeal on the Fox network appearing on his ABC show, The Practice, and, in turn, The Practice characters appeared on Ally McBeal. This was done in spite of the two shows' different tones (one a comedy, the other a drama). This crossover was partially credited for raising ratings for The Practice, which it sustained after those episodes.
Kelley repeated this maneuver with his Boston Public, Ally McBeal, and Boston Legal shows. Thereafter, many other crossovers occurred including shows not created by Kelley.
David E. Kelley's shows tend to be revolving-door ensemble casts with no single principal character. Even on Ally McBeal there were episodes in which the title character had few lines or was even omitted. Kelley has a tendency to focus on newer characters he creates, sometimes at the expense of older characters. (New character Alan Shore, for example, completely dominated the final season of The Practice.) In the most extreme cases, older characters of Kelley's series sometimes disappear without explanation or further mention; this tendency has been cited as one potentially contributing cause to dips in the ratings for Ally McBeal, Boston Public and The Practice.
Kelley often uses regular actors from older shows in newer shows, and vice versa. For example, Anthony Heald and Rene Auberjonois both played judges on The Practice, and both went on to be regular cast members in later shows (Heald on Boston Public as a vice-principal and Auberjonois on Boston Legal as a partner at a law firm).
The Practice was considered more accurate in its portrayal of the law than L.A. Law or Ally McBeal. The importance of legal strategy sometimes at the expense of the truth rang true. One attorney said, "[I]t's really about the tactics and the mistakes that opposing counsel makes." Judges were represented as complex, less-than-perfect human beings, sometimes with emotional problems. Plots demonstrated how a defendant's personality would impact the adjudication of a case. Stuart Levine of Variety Magazine said, "[The Practice] isn't afraid to paint the firm's clients as the dregs of society." Kelley said,
Other aspects of the legal profession in Kelley's shows have been criticized as unrealistic. Attorneys have complained that:
When the program Ally McBeal first ran, many women lauded its portrayal of the lead character. Sharon Waxman, writing for The Washington Post, commented that Kelley had a keen insight into the human nature of both men and women. She quoted Dyan Cannon: "This man understands the way a woman thinks, ... the complex ways we've found to hide our fears." A New York Times writer used the character as an example of a strong television woman's role, another saw herself, at times, in the character's portrayal of self-absorption and reflection, her crafted neuroses, her vulnerabilities.
Later, however, much press coverage was spent on the controversial nature of women in Ally McBeal. Time Magazine featured a cover story about the decline of feminism with a picture of Ally (among a pantheon of feminist heroes) on the cover. In the article, Ginia Bellafante used the McBeal character as a modern exemplar proving that "[M]uch of feminism has devolved into the silly." In response, author Erica Jong felt that the Time journalist diminished her argument by using only pop-cultural references and ignoring the majority of real-world women who have made significant progress.
Writing in Salon.com, Joyce Millman disputed that Ally McBeal should even be described as a "women's show" -- that its representations of women were, in fact, a male fantasy. She felt that Kelley treated his female characters "sadistically" in general, beginning all the way back to L.A. Law, saving only The Practice for positive remarks.
What can't be denied is that Kelley's Ally McBeal was hugely successful in attracting the 18-to-34-year-old women audience demographic. The New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, quoted two young, professional women saying they liked shows with female characters like themselves, single, even obsessed. Dowd quoted the executive producer of Law & Order, Dick Wolf, "I think there is a wish-fulfillment factor when you put an attractive woman in a situation where she is doing real, adult stuff."
Samuel G. Freedman, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, writing in the New York Times, praises Kelley's series Boston Public as an attempt to both reflect and change public opinion about public education, particularly the urban, overcrowded, underfinanced variety. He liked the realism of the setting, the mixed ethnicity of the faculty and (ofttimes antipathetic) student body and the bureaucratic struggles. He criticized Kelley, though, for pandering to stereotypes of teachers and students and for failing to show successful teaching strategies.
In The New York Times, Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, felt that medical dramas such as Kelley's Chicago Hope do a good job of addressing bioethical issues such as who should receive a liver transplant or when should a patient be allowed to die. However, there is a lack of discussion concerning the primary money issue: "How do people pay for this?" The show has been criticized for presenting a one-sided view of managed care, portraying HMOs as dramatically evil while glossing over the complexities. Doctors are too often shown as selfless patient advocates ready to battle whatever the financial cost.
Kelley has incorporated religious subject matter from the beginning, including issues involving Protestantism, Judaism and Catholicism. With the widespread media coverage of child sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church during the mid-to-late 1990s, Kelley began to introduce this controversy into his scripts. For instance, the character Bobby Donnell on The Practice, a Catholic, became personally estranged from the Church over the issue of sexually abusive priests. While the conservative Catholic League didn't have an issue with this episode, they frequently complained of anti-Catholic bias in Kelley's shows because of his references to this subject. 
Besides his first film, From the Hip which received poor reviews, Kelley wrote and produced three other films. 1996's To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, a romance, co-starring his wife, Michelle Pfeiffer, received tepid critical and box office reception. In 1999, came two films: Lake Placid, a unique combination of suspense, horror and comedy, and Mystery, Alaska, about a fictional small-town ice hockey team that plays a game against the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. Neither movie did well with either the critics or the audience.
Kelley married actress Michelle Pfeiffer in 1993. They have two children: an adopted daughter, Claudia Rose (b. 1993) and a biological son, John Henry (b. 1994). Kelley is known for leaving work in time to be home in the evenings and weekends. Sometimes assumed to be a Catholic because his programs address Catholic issues, Kelley was raised a Protestant.
|1999||Mystery, Alaska||Co-writer, producer|
|Lake Placid||Writer, producer|
|1996||To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday||Screenplay, producer|
|1987||From the Hip||Writer, story|
|2006–2007||The Wedding Bells||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer||canceled after 7 episodes|
|2005–2006||The Law Firm||NBC||Creator, writer, executive producer||canceled after 2 episodes|
|2004–2005||Boston Legal||ABC||Creator, writer, executive producer||ended 2008|
|2003–2004||The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire||CBS||Creator, writer, executive producer||canceled after 5 episodes|
|2002–2003||girls club||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer||canceled after 2 episodes|
|2000–2001||Boston Public||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer, executive consultant||ended 2004|
|1999–2000||Snoops||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer, actor (uncredited)||canceled after 10 episodes|
|Ally||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer||canceled after 10 episodes|
|1997–1998||Ally McBeal||Fox||Creator, writer, executive producer||ended 2002|
|1996–1997||The Practice||ABC||Creator, writer, executive producer||ended 2004|
|1994–1995||Chicago Hope||CBS||Creator, writer, executive producer, executive consultant||ended 2000|
|1992–1993||Picket Fences||CBS||Creator, writer, executive producer||ended 1996|
|1989–1990||Doogie Howser, M.D.||ABC||Co-creator (with Steven Bochco), writer, creative consultant||ended 1993|
|1986–1987||L.A. Law||NBC||Writer, story editor, executive story editor, supervising producer, co-producer, executive producer, creative consultant||ended 1994|
|2008||Boston Legal||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated|
|2007||Boston Legal||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated|
|2000||The Practice||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated||Shared with Bob Breech, Jeffrey Kramer, Christina Musrey, Gary M. Strangis, Pamela Wisne|
|1999||The Practice||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Bob Breech, Jeffrey Kramer, Christina Musrey, Gary M. Strangis, Pamela Wisne|
|Ally McBeal||Outstanding Comedy Series||Awarded||Shared with Peter Burrell, Jeffrey Kramer, Mike Listo, Jonathan Pontell, Steve Robin, Pamela Wisne|
|Ally McBeal||Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|1998||The Practice||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Bob Breech, Jeffrey Kramer, Christina Musrey, Jonathan Pontell, Ed Redlich, Gary M. Strangis, Pamela Wisne|
|Ally McBeal||Outstanding Comedy Series||Nominated||Shared with Jeffrey Kramer, Mike Listo, Jonathan Pontell, Steve Robin, Pamela Wisne|
|Ally McBeal||Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|The Practice||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Nominated||For the episode "Betrayal"|
|1996||Chicago Hope||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated||Shared with Kevin Arkadie, Rob Corn, Bill D'Elia, Michael Dinner, Patricia Green, James C. Hart, John Heath, John Tinker|
|1995||Chicago Hope||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated||Shared with Michael Braverman, Dennis Cooper, Rob Corn, Michael Dinner, James C. Hart, John Heath, Michael Pressman, John Tinker|
|1994||Picket Fences||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Robert Breech, Ann Donahue, Geoffrey Neigher, Jack Philbrick, Jonathan Pontell, Michael Pressman, Alice West|
|1993||Picket Fences||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Robert Breech, Mark B. Perry, Jonathan Pontell, Michael Pressman, Alice West|
|1991||L.A. Law||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Rick Wallace, Patricia Green, John Hill, Robert Breech, James C. Hart, Elodie Keene, Alan Brennert, Alice West|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Awarded||For the episode "On The Toad Again"|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Nominated||For the episode "Mutinies On The Banzai". Shared with co-writers Alan Brennert and Patricia Green.|
|1990||L.A. Law||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Robert M. Breech, William M. Finkelstein, Elodie Keene, Michael M. Robin, Rick Wallace, Alice West|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Awarded||For the episode "Bang...Zoom...Zap"|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Nominated||For the episode "Blood Sweat & Fears". Shared with co-writer William M. Finklestein|
|1989||L.A. Law||Outstanding Drama Series||Awarded||Shared with Steven Bochco, William M. Finkelstein, Michele Gallery, Phillip M. Goldfarb, Scott Goldstein, Judith Parker, Rick Wallace, Alice West|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Nominated|
|1988||L.A. Law||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated||Shared with Steven Bochco, Terry Louise Fisher, Phillip M. Goldfarb, Scott Goldstein, Gregory Hoblit, Rick Wallace|
|L.A. Law||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Nominated||Shared with Terry Louise Fisher|
Among the actors and actresses who have won Emmys for playing roles in Kelley's series are Peter MacNicol, Tracey Ullman, Sharon Stone, William Shatner, James Spader, Alfre Woodard, Charles S. Dutton, Michael Emerson, James Whitmore, Beah Richards, Edward Herrmann, Michael Badalucco, Holland Taylor, John Larroquette, Camryn Manheim, Christine Lahti, Héctor Elizondo, Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Baker, Ray Walston, Paul Winfield, Richard Kiley, Fyvush Finkel, Leigh Taylor-Young, Tom Skerritt, Richard Dysart, Jimmy Smits, and Larry Drake.
|2005||Boston Legal||David E. Kelley Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television|
|2002||Boston Public||David E. Kelley Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television|
|1998||The Practice||ABC and David E. Kelley Productions|
|Ally McBeal||FOX" and David E. Kelley Productions|