While David E. Kelley is widely known for his successful legal shows ("The Practice", "Ally McBeal", "Boston Legal" and writing on "LA Law"), the producer's shows away from the courtroom, such as "Boston Public" and especially "Picket Fences", were also well-recieved by both critics and fans alike. Although the series did have some trouble with ratings, the show's fans remained devoted, as the series ran for four seasons from 1992-1996 on CBS, winning 14 Emmys and 1 Golden Globe in the four years on-air.
The series took place in the little town of Rome, Wisconsin, where odd events occured on a daily basis, and the small town's small size meant everyone knew what was going on with everyone else. The town is looked after by Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt) and his wife, Jill (Kathy Baker) - he's the sheriff, she's the doctor. However, when things happen like the Tin Man being murdered during a school production of "the Wizard of Oz", a farmer accusing his neighbor of getting his cows drunk, an Indian tribe declaring war on the city after a golf course is permitted to be built on a burial ground and a Santa taking hostages - well, the Sheriff and his wife have their hands full.
Although Baker and Skeritt offered strong performances in their roles, "Picket" is another example of a Kelly-produced series that attracted a strong ensemble cast and was able to spread the focus around to all the characters. Aside from the sheriff and his wife, there's Judge Bone (a terrific Ray Walston), Deputies Kenny and Max (played respectively by Costas Mandylor and Lauren Holly) and lawyer Douglas Wambaugh (Fyvush Finkle).
The stories do go off into the surreal at times, but Kelley has a way of finding the surreal in situations and boiling it down until we see that maybe the situation wasn't so unusual after all as the show gets to the heart of the subject. The series was somewhat controversial, dealing with issues like euthanasia, suicide, transsexuality, HIV, murder, bandits that leave frogs behind and more in a small town setting. However, "Picket"'s ability to balance the comedy and drama in the everyday life of this small town is still impressive, as is the excellent cast.
1. 1- 1 18 Sep 92 Pilot
2. 1- 2 25 Sep 92 The Green Bay Chopper
3. 1- 3 2 Oct 92 Mr. Dreeb Comes to Town
4. 1- 4 16 Oct 92 The Autumn of Rome
5. 1- 5 23 Oct 92 Frank the Potato Man
6. 1- 6 26 Oct 92 Remembering Rosemary
7. 1- 7 30 Oct 92 The Contenders
8. 1- 8 6 Nov 92 Sacred Hearts
9. 1- 9 13 Nov 92 Thanksgiving
10. 1-10 4 Dec 92 The Snake Lady
11. 1-11 11 Dec 92 Pageantry
12. 1-12 18 Dec 92 High Tidings
13. 1-13 8 Jan 93 Frog Man
14. 1-14 15 Jan 93 Bad Moons Rising
15. 1-15 22 Jan 93 Nuclear Meltdowns
16. 1-16 5 Feb 93 The Body Politic
17. 1-17 12 Feb 93 Be My Valentine
18. 1-18 1 Apr 93 Fetal Attraction
19. 1-19 8 Apr 93 Sightings
20. 1-20 15 Apr 93 Rights of Passage
21. 1-21 29 Apr 93 Sugar and Spice
22. 1-22 6 May 93 The Lullaby League
VIDEO: "Picket Fences" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.33:1 full-frame. The series looks pretty good, and just about at broadcast quality. Shot with a bit of a soft focus, the picture still at least looks crisp and mostly clean, with no noticable wear on the elements used. Some minor shimmer and an occasional slight instance of artifacting were spotted, but hardly noticable. Colors looked warm, bright and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, this was a fine presentation of the material.
SOUND: Crisp, clear stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: "All Roads Lead to Rome" is a short featurette that features interviews with Kelley and members of the cast discussing their memories of the series. As I've said with extras like this on previous sets of Kelley-produced dramas, this featurette is fine enough, but a more detailed documentary or commentary/commentaries would have been much appreciated by fans.
Final Thoughts: An engaging comedy/drama with a superb touch of the surreal and a marvelous ensemble cast, "Picket Fences" is a pleasure to catch up with on this DVD set, which offers fine audio/video quality, but a disappointing amount of extras. Still, recommended.