TCA Press Tour 2011: David E. Kelley returns to TV with another legal drama despite his children's pleas
When "Boston Legal" ended in 2008, David E. Kelley promised himself he would not create another legal drama. But the prolific lawyer-turned-TV-writer known for his other two lawyer shows, "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" (among several others), is back with another show about legal eagles, "Harry's Law," starring Kathy Bates.
"It was a question raised by own kids -- 'Dad, please, not another law show,' " Kelley said at NBC's panel for the show Thursday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. "But I found that I did miss getting into some of the topics. I also found that the economic times had changed so dramatically that I would like to give a voice to that.
"I'll be happy to get a series back on the air. I'm getting a little squirrely not having one to write. I particularly wanted to get my hands on topical subject matter again. I'm happy to be back and i'm hoping the show allows us to do that."
The series centers around a curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer, Harry (Bates), who is abruptly fired from her law firm and finds her next job when her world unexpectedly collides with a young man, played by Aml Ameen ("Kidulthood"), who needs her help with a pending court case. The cast includes Nate Corddry and Brittany Snow.
Kelley said this show is different from his previous ones because Harry (short for Harriet) sets up her new shingle in a shoe shop in a not-so-great neighborhood of Cincinnati.
"This is a different show because it's a walk-in business," Kelley said. "The cases and clients are as many and varied as the clients that come in through the door. There's more courtroom in the first two episodes than subsequent ones."
The fact that the star of "Harry's Law" is a 60-year-old woman also sets it apart from Kelley's previous shows and other series on the television dial.
"We have a 60-year-old lead and not many shows do, and not many networks have come to me recently and said, 'Can you give me a series with a 60-year-old lead?' " he said. "But I have to believe that in the universe of 500-plus channels, there has to be room on the landscape for one. And there has to be room on the television landscape for one or two or three series that are willing to engage in topical things. I realize you alienate a good part of your constituency when you do that. But at the same time, any writer has to decide what story he wants to write and what stories he wants to tell."
Bates said she was sold on the show when she read the pilot script and learned that Harry "had her feet on the desk, smoking pot and watching 'Bugs Bunny.' After that I was in."
"I've just never ever wanted to play that bubbly, happy person," she said. "And I think if you look back through my IMDB, I just identify with who she is. That's one of the big reasons I wanted to come and play the character. She has lived a certain amount in her life. She's a bit disillusioned. She's a bit crabby ... and I can identify with some of that."
"Harry's Law" premires on Jan. 17.
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Kathy Bates, David E. Kelley and Brittany Snow appear at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.
Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters