This year may mark David E. Kelley’s 35th in show business, but by the looks of it, he has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. The 65-year-old lawyer-turned-Hollywood-multi-hyphenate has been behind several recent series including “The Undoing,” “Big Shot” and “Big Sky,” as well as Hulu’s upcoming “Nine Perfect Strangers,” which fans have been eagerly anticipating.
With a resume stretching as long as the legal briefs so many of his characters are known for writing, Kelley is nothing if not prolific. Though he’s garnered much acclaim for later shows like “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal” and “Big Little Lies,” his early creations are just as notable, especially “Picket Fences,” the first season of which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Set in the fictional Rome, Wisconsin, the critically acclaimed series is a whimsical look at a zany cast of characters in a small town and the strange happenings they encounter on a daily basis.
Of the eccentric storylines, co-executive producer Michael Pressman told the Los Angeles Times, “The key to the show is variety. Sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes a drama, sometimes it’s a suspense police story. Sometimes we’ll deal with a social or political issue and sometimes we’ll deal with some heavy family issue, and the audience seems to be responding most to the fact that they love not knowing.”
Formatted like a “Law & Order” with a distinctive “Twin Peaks” meets “Northern Exposure” vibe, episodes often center around a crime (mostly of the bizarre variety – instead of murder and assault, think stolen circus elephants and “serial bathers”) investigated by local sheriff Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt) and prosecuted in the courtroom of Judge Henry Bone (Ray Walston). The latter not only serves as Rome’s hard-headed arbitrator but its moral compass, as well – a role Walston played to aplomb, garnering himself two late-in-life Emmy Awards (his firsts!) at the age of 80 and 81! (Just try watching this without tearing up!) Of Judge Bone, he told the L.A. Times, “He is the best character I’ve ever had in television, so pleasing for me and satisfying to do . . . He is me.”
“Picket Fences” debuted on CBS in 1992 and proceeded to run for four years, with all filming taking place in the Los Angeles area, namely in the San Gabriel Valley’s idyllic city of Monrovia. The International-style City Hall building at 425 S. Ivy Ave. was transformed into the Rome Sheriff’s Department for the show. The United Methodist Church at 140 E. Palm Ave. played the Hogan County Courthouse, where Judge Bone regularly faced off with colorful defense attorney Douglas Wambaugh (Fyvush Finkel). The Brock residence, where Jimmy lived with his wife, Jill (Kathy Baker), and their three children, can be found at 211 Highland Pl. And the gorgeous Craftsman that Judge Bone called home is just three houses north at 225 Highland.