Sunday, June 17, 2007

In Praise of Picket Fences

A TV show whose DVD release I have been anticipating for years is finally coming out on Tuesday, June 19th... Picket Fences. My copy should arrive this week and I can't wait to catch up with the citizens of the fictional Rome, Wisconsin. When this show originally aired on CBS from 1992-96, I couldn't be bothered with it for a couple of reasons:

1. I had heard about some of the strange plotlines and assumed that it was just being quirky for the sake of being quirky.

2. I held a grudge against creator David E. Kelley because I felt that he helped to ruin one of my favorite shows... L.A. Law.

However, one of my friends (Cheri) watched it in reruns on FX in the late 90s and constantly raved about it. Unfortunately, I didn't have FX at the time (damn you Comcast Flint) so I couldn't watch it. When TNN aired reruns in the early part of this decade, I decided to give it a shot and was instantly hooked.

Picket Fences is one of those shows that could be hilarious, thought provoking, and heartwarming all in one episode! It dealt with such topics as transsexuality, school busing, belief in God, and cryonics. At one of my former jobs, I used to bring in tapes so that me and some of my co-workers could watch episodes in the breakroom. I remember that the combination of a heart-tugging scene and that soft piano theme music would get one of my co-workers every time.
Earlier, I made a reference to the strange events that took place in Rome, WI. When I tell people who have never seen the show about some of the things that happened on Picket Fences, you should see the looks that I get. These are a few of the weird things that happened:

A girl brought a severed hand in a jar for Show and Tell

A serial bather who snuck into people's homes and left rings in their bathtubs

The mayor who died of spontaneous combustion

A cow gave birth to a human baby

Yes, you non-watchers are probably saying what the hell (or something stronger). However, the writers for Picket Fences did an excellent job of making the craziest plot twists plausible.

In addition to the top notch regulars (Tom Skerritt, Kathy Baker, Fyvush Finkel, Ray Walston, Don Cheadle, etc.), over the years Picket Fences also featured guest appearances by James Earl Jones, Marlee Matlin, Jack Black, Terrence Howard, Della Reese, and a "blink and you would miss it" cameo by Michelle Pfeiffer (Mrs. David E. Kelley) just to name a few.

When David E. Kelley handed over the reins after the end of the 3rd season, many fans thought that it caused Picket Fences to slip a bit in quality for its fourth and final season. However, I think that it was still better than most shows. I can hear that soft piano music playing right now...


Chaos said...

I too started watching when they ran the reruns on FX. The mayor spontaneously combusting is classic!

I did have an issue with Lauren Holly...never have been a fan. I even stopped watching NCIS because of her. And David Kelley...just too through with him. He creates these great shows and then steps back knowing they will die.

Malcolm: said...

Hi Chaos... good call on the mayor's spontaneous combustion. Rome, WI went through mayors almost as fast as Murphy Brown did through secretaries.

Hopefully the Season One set of Picket Fences sells well enough that they will release the rest of the series on DVD.

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