Kelley's Heroes Practise Their Morals

Article excerpt

Byline: JACI STEPHEN

NOBODY makes television quite like David E. Kelley, and tonight sees the start of another imported series, The Practice (ITV, 9pm), set around a firm of lawyers in Boston.

Kelley is both a writer and a producer (he is executive producer on The Practice) and was responsible for LA Law and Chicago Hope. LA Law was about a group of good-looking lawyers who had as many problems in their personal lives as in their professional ones; and Chicago Hope was about a group of doctors who . . . er, had as many problems in their personal lives as in their professional ones.

In Britain, our soap-style dramas are, for the most part, working class; the middle classes never rise above cliche, and the audience does not take to them with the same enthusiasm as it does their more downtrodden contemporaries.

In America, the biggest hits both in drama and comedy are very middle-class based - Friends, Frasier, and Kelley's hits - and they feature extremely good-looking, well-dressed people with lovely homes.

There is also a moral core to American comedy and soap that is lacking in our own. In our soaps, characters live on the wrong side of the law and do not always get caught out; in America, characters who take short cuts and compromise their morals and society's ethical codes must be seen to suffer as a result.

LA Law's Arnie Becker was a womaniser, but finally lost the one woman he truly loved as a result of his behaviour. Every week, the series explored the nature of truth and justice themes not just present in law-related dramas but ever lurking at the heart of other American series.

This is what Kelley describes, in relation to The Practice, as 'people trying to live ethically in an unethical arena'. What, in essence, is the right way to live?

Bobby Donnell, played by Dylan McDermott, is the idealist in The Practice.

He has, says McDermott, 'the white knight approach to law', engaged in a constant struggle with moral issues. Should that put you off, fear not; McDermott is also a stunning creation of human flesh.

Well, morality just isn't interesting unless you want to take its shirt off.

THE week's events: Channel 4 autumn launch; the Globe theatre, beneath brooding trees and in virtual darkness.

Excellent food, especially the pasties; the problem was trying to locate them. Good turnout, including some of the Brookside cast. Forthcoming schedule: excellent. Totty: nil.

Post-event activities: Bella Pasta with Brookside team, where publicity officers developed uncanny knack of holding glasses at weakest point of stem and accidentally breaking them in two.

BBC autumn arts launch: Columbia Tri-Star. Decidedly iffy canapes.

Forthcoming schedule: excellent, though not enough literature. …