Boston Legal: How To Create a Great TV Show
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
David E. Kelley, famed TV writer/producer, has created over a dozen TV shows, easily making him the most prolific TV writer in the modern age. Unlike most creators, he hangs on to the reigns of all his shows, either writing, co-writing, or being responsible for the story in almost every episode of all his series. This is no small task. Kelley is the Steven King of the television world.
How does one man do all this? It's not like the quality of his shows suffer. From L.A. Law to Ally McBeal to The Practice and now, with Boston Legal, his programs have enjoyed wide critical acclaim. In fact, Boston Legal may be his best show, combining wonderful court drama with remarkably quirky and funny characters, emboldened by an incredibly savvy cast. How does he keep producing such excellent material, year after year?
Well, they say behind every great man you'll find a great woman, and Kelley probably has the best muse in the history of TV: Michelle Pfeiffer. Kelley married Pfeiffer in 1993 and they remain a happy couple today. Ever since they got married, Pfeiffer has significantly pared down her film work, instead focusing on family. Since 1993, she has only appeared in twelve films, far fewer than her high profile would normally merit In short, Kelley is the luckiest man on earth. Sure, he's talented, but there are lots of talented people out there who didn't marry Michelle Pfeiffer. I mean, he's even kind of a dorky looking guy, wearing those Buddy Holly glasses all the time. Kelley's greatest successes came after their marriage, so we must assume that she galvanized his creative juices to the point where he became the machine he is today.
The lesson, for all you aspiring TV writers out there, is this: to become a very successful writer in Hollywood all you need to do is create a show and marry a gorgeous movie star. Then you can easily make programs like Boston Legal.
However, there might be one caveat to this whole thing; Kelley may be going insane. Seriously. All this inspiration he has received in the past ten years made him keep up with a number of shows at once, and it's a small wonder he hasn't completely burned out already. At one point in 1999, he had FIVE shows on TV at the same time. Now, he's completely focused on Boston Legal, but a trend has arisen since that year: his shows have gotten progressively goofier. Boston Legal is a spin-off, really a continuation, of the show The Practice, which is no longer on air. While, previously, the plots of his shows were often very serious and hard-hitting, he now almost totally focuses on silly story lines and characters with a high quirk factor. This is all fine and good, Boston Legal is tremendously entertaining, but it does beg the question: Will marrying a movie star make you crazy?
To which I answer: even if it does, it's probably worth it.