For TV drama, Practice makes perfect
critics have labelled the past 10 years the golden era of TV drama, but for every Mad Men, Sopranos or Damages, many good series have gone before.
Before House were medical shows such as Marcus Welby MD through to St Elsewhere, Chicago Hope and ER.
Alan Ball’s True Blood has creepy relatives in the likes of Twin Peaks and Ball’s earlier Six Feet Under.
The Glenn Close and Rose Byrne vehicle Damages can’t help but give a nod to the courtroom intrigues of David E. Kelley’s LA Law, as well as the definitive legal office drama of recent years, The Practice.
Running for eight seasons from 1997 to 2003, The The Practice, M 111 Hits (pay-TV), Monday, 10.20pm Classic legal drama Duration: 1 hour Practice, also produced by Kelley, is one of the strongest precursors to today’s crop of TV dramas.
Kelley then turned The Practice into Boston Legal, spinning off James Spader’s character of Alan Shore and creating a new legal drama with skewed plots rich in politically incorrect humour.
Spader wasn’t the only actor to benefit from The Practice. The drama made household names out of its principal cast— Dylan McDermott (left), Kelli Williams, Michael Badalucco, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Camryn Manheim— while creating a new showcase for Twin Peaks’ Lara Flynn Boyle. McDermott, who was the firm’s boss Bobby Donnell, has just resurfaced in the new US drama Dark Blue, where he plays Carter Shaw, a tough, streetwise Los Angeles cop. The role is the total opposite of the well-groomed, under-control characters he normally plays.
‘‘I knew when I came back I had to do something radically different or people would be sick of me. Hopefully, that’s what I’ve done with this show,’’ says the 47-year-old Connecticut native who has been working in TV and films for more than 20 years.
For Manheim, who played Ellenor Frutt, the show opened up film opportunities and paved the way to her role as Delia Banks in Ghost Whisperer. Jessica Capshaw, who was attorney Jamie Stringer on The Practice, is now a regular on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.