tek's rating: ½

Picket Fences, on CBS
Great but Forgotten; IMDb; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Hulu; iTunes; Vudu

Before this show premiered, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. But in the opening scene, there was a play being put on, a local production of "The Wizard of Oz," and at one point, the Tin Woodsman collapsed. Everyone rushed around the actor to see what was the matter. Someone asked, "Is it his heart?" From that moment on, I was hooked.

Anyway... Rome, Wisconsin, turned out to be one of those quirky towns full of quirky characters you can pretty much only find on TV. I didn't always like most of the characters, but I did care about them. And I was generally more fond of some of them than the others. The main character was Sheriff Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt), who I didn't always agree with, but I generally respected him. I probably sided more often with his wife, Dr. Jill Brock (Kathy Baker). One of my favorite characters was Jimmy's daughter, Kimberly (Holly Marine Combs). She was from his first marriage (he was divorced). Jill was his second wife, and they had two kids together: Matthew and Zachary. There were also a couple of deputies, Maxine Stewart (Lauren Holly) and Kenny Lacos. Probably my very favorite character on the show was a defense attorney named Douglas Wambaugh (oh yes, he was quite a character, alright). He was definitely the funniest character. But medical examiner Carter Pike was amusing, in his own way. Police dispatcher Ginny Weedon (Zelda Rubinstein) was... interesting. Judge Henry Bone (Ray Walston), who was often annoyed at pretty much everyone, but especially Wambaugh, was amusing for his crotchetiness, but also smart and fair and deeply worthy of respect. And... there were a number of other recurring characters, throughout the show's run.

Anyway, it was a rather strange and interesting show. Mainly about court cases each week. But it pretty well blended the courtroom stuff and the police stuff and the medical stuff and the family stuff and all the other stuff. And the cases were more than just cases, they affected all the people, they affected the community. ...Mixed in with all the drama and all the comedy and all the just plain bizarreness of things, the main point was to always explore social issues, generally in fairly unorthodox ways. Plenty of different viewpoints were provided, and people who loved each other often vehemently disagreed on various issues, and often they ended up questioning their own positions and coming to realize how truly complex these issues were, very grey stuff, not black and white at all. The show was often very current, but also ahead of its time, and not afraid to take risks, or unpopular stands. It wasn't always a good show, it wasn't always well written, or right (in my opinion). Though of course, usually there was no absolute "right" or "wrong," despite the natural human tendency to believe that there is, sometimes. Anyway, the show was often brilliant and controversial and really forced you to think (unless you are completely close-minded) about things and question your own beliefs. All this and wacky humor too! I'd very much love to see the series again, someday.

It was the first show for which I came to know the name David E. Kelley, and in my estimation it's still the best show he's made. Though many of his shows that came after this were pretty good, and had a similar sensibility to this one, in terms of both quirkiness and making the viewer think about complex issues.

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