- The Practice
show_name = The Practice
caption = Title Screen
runtime = 60 minutes
David E. Kelley
Dylan McDermott Michael Badalucco Lisa Gay Hamilton
Camryn Manheim Kelli Williams Lara Flynn Boyle
followed_by = "
20th Century Fox Television
Daydreamers Entertainment, Inc.
David E. Kelley Productions
country = USA
network = ABC
March 4, 1997
May 16, 2004
num_seasons = 8
num_episodes = 168 (episodes)
imdb_id = 118437
"The Practice" is a American
legal dramacreated by David E. Kelleycentering on the partners and associates at a Boston lawfirm. The show won the Emmy in 1998 and 1999 for Best Drama Series, and spawned the spin-off series " Boston Legal", which began airing in the fall of 2004 and deals with similar subject matter, though often taking a lighter, more character-oriented approach.
"The Practice" focused on the law firm of Robert Donnell and Associates (later becoming Donnell, Young, Dole & Frutt, and ultimately Young, Frutt & Berluti). Plots typically featured the firm's involvement in various high-profile criminal and civil cases that often mirror current events. There are a number of crossovers with other David E. Kelley shows, including "
Boston Public", " Ally McBeal", and the short-lived medical drama " Gideon's Crossing". "The Practice" is one of David E. Kelley's more serious-themed shows, lacking much of the comedic breaks found in "McBeal", "Boston Legal", and others.
In its first season, the show starred
Dylan McDermott, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Steve Harris, Camryn Manheimand Kelli Williams. By episode two of season one, Michael Badaluccojoined the cast as Jimmy Berluti. Later, during the same season, Lara Flynn Boylejoined the cast as district attorneyHelen Gamble, a role she played for six seasons.
By the end of the seventh season, faced with sagging ratings, ABC conditioned the show's renewal on a drastic budget reduction. As a result, six cast members were fired:
Dylan McDermott, Kelli Williams, Lara Flynn Boyle, Chyler Leigh, Marla Sokoloff, and Lisa Gay Hamilton. The addition of James Spaderand Rhona Mitrato the cast for the eighth season somewhat revived the ratings; Spader went on to win an Emmyfor his appearance. However, on March 11, 2004, ABC announced that "The Practice" would not return for a ninth season; rather, Kelley would create a new spin-off series " Boston Legal," starring Spader, Mitra, and William Shatner.cite news | title = How James Spader saved 'The Practice' | url = http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/02/23/apontv.james.spader.ap/index.html | publisher = Associated Press/CNN | date = 2004-02-23| accessdate = 2008-08-24]
History of the series
At the start of the series, attorney Bobby Donnell employs associate attorneys Ellenor Frutt, Eugene Young (who joined Bobby's practice seven years earlier), Lindsay Dole, and receptionist/paralegal Rebecca Washington (with whom Bobby started his practice). By the second episode, Bobby's friend Jimmy Berluti is hired as an associate. Jimmy was an attorney currently working as a loan officer. When he falsified loan documents to help Bobby's struggling practice, he lost his job, and Bobby hires him.
Bobby originally opens his practice with idealistic dreams of protecting the innocent, but during the firm's early days of financial struggle, Bobby quickly learns that drug dealers and other undeniably guilty clients tend to be the ones who provide the business that keep the firm running.
Bobby maintains sole control over the firm until an ultimatum by Lindsay motivates him to name Ellenor, Eugene, Lindsay, and Rebecca as junior partners. To maintain control over the firm, Bobby writes into the charter that each partner received one vote in partnership meetings, while Bobby would get two. While this decision prevents Lindsay's power play from becoming ugly, it temporarily causes some tension between Bobby and Jimmy, who feels insulted that he was the only one on staff who is not named a partner. This is exacerbated by the fact that Rebecca is made partner despite her being the receptionist and not an attorney. Rebecca eventually earns her law degree in season three, and Jimmy is eventually made partner at the end of season seven.
Bobby and his associates all share a friendship with A.D.A. Helen Gamble, who even shares a brief romance with Bobbyndash all highly unusual, considering how often Helen's job places her in opposition to the firm.
A recurring strategy used by the practice – especially Eugene – is informally known as the 'United States of America defense', an appeal to patriotism which emphasizes the rights of their client as Constitutional priorities that must be upheld by the jury. However, the firm is far more notorious for employing a strategy they refer to as 'Plan B', which involves creating doubt with the jury as to their client's guilt by accusing a third, usually innocent party of the crime in order to plant the seed of reasonable doubt. While the strategy is often effective, it would occasionally backfire once the D.A.'s office grew familiar with the strategy. This tactic invariably causes great emotional distress for the attorney employing the plan when they know that the target is most likely innocent. Thus, in such cases, Plan B is used only as a last resort. Despite the firm's friendship with Helen Gamble, the practice's use of Plan B, combined with the firm's high win/loss ratio against her, attracts ire and scrutiny from the D.A.'s office, particularly in the case of senior A.D.A. Kenneth Walsh.
In 2003, Bobby Donnell leaves the firm, fearing he had become the 'blue-chip' lawyer he had long resented. He names Eugene as senior partner. Along with Ellenor, Eugene decides to make Jimmy a full partner and extendes an offer to Lindsay (who had left to start her own practice), and her associate Claire Wyatt to return to the firm.
This occurs at the end of season seven at the end of which, most of the cast is fired for budgetary reasons. When season eight began with nearly half the original cast missing without explanation, it caused confusion amongst longtime viewers of the show. It was never explained what became of Lindsay, Claire, Lucy, Rebecca, or Helen. The recurring characters, such as judges Zoey Hiller (
Linda Hunt) and Roberta Kittleson ( Holland Taylor) are also completely written off.
During the final year of the firm's existence, the remaining attorneys are senior partners Ellenor, Eugene, Jimmy, and associate Jamie Stringer. Lucy Hatcher, the firm's longtime receptionist/paralegal, has been replaced by Tara Wilson, a third year law student and paralegal. Ellenor hires an old friend, Alan Shore, the top anti-trust attorney in Massachusetts after he is fired from his firm Carruthers-Abbot for embezzling. Alan's joining the firm is a mixed blessing; he attracts lots of business and generates enough revenue to make up for the three departed lawyers, but his unorthodox and often unethical or illegal methods often clash with Eugene, Jimmy, and occasionally, Ellenor. Near the series end, Eugene and Jimmy fire Alan without consulting Ellenor, creating a phenomenon known as a law firm divorce. It begins when, despite Alan's bringing in over $6,000,000 in revenue, he is given just $15,000 severance. Alan sues for wrongful termination and hires Matthew Billings and
Denny Craneof the blue-chip firm Crane, Poole & Schmidtto represent him. After warning Shore of his impending dismissal, associate Tara is also fired by Eugene, and Lucy is brought back as a temporary receptionist. The jury decides that Young, Frutt & Berluti are to pay Shore $2.3 million, which contributes to the dissolution of the firm. Shore offers to forfeit his winnings, but the offer is declined. At Jamie's insistence, Jimmy then departs to start his own neighborhood law firm. Eugene is appointed a superior court judge, and Ellenor retires to spend time with her daughter. Jamie later joins Jimmy's firm. Alan and Tara are hired by Crane, Poole & Schmidt as an associate and paralegal respectively.
Dylan McDermottas Bobby Donnell(1997–2003, 2004), senior partner of the firm. A deeply sensitive and compassionate man, Bobby often struggled with his conscience as he was forced to walk the line between his personal moral principles and his ethical obligations to his clientsndash a character trait frequently mirrored by the other members of the firm. Indeed, it was this conflict between legal ethicsand personal morality that contributed to his character leaving the show, as Bobby began to suffer a nervous breakdown. Bobby left the firm in 2003 at the end of the seventh season, subsequently returning as a guest star for the series' final two episodes. Contrast Bobby with his replacement as main character, Alan Shore (see below) who had no problem choosing morality over ethics.
Michael Badaluccoas Jimmy Berluti(1997–2004), an associate, and later, partner at the firm. An Italian-American from a working-class background, Jimmy often struggled with his conscience, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy, as well as a brief story arc involving his problems with gambling addiction. Jimmy, like Bobby, was raised as a Catholic, and his strict upbringing often played a part in his various ethical dilemmas.
Lisa Gay Hamiltonas Rebecca Washington(1997–2003). At the beginning of the series, Rebecca was the firm's receptionist and occasional paralegal. She passed the bar exam after attending law school at night for several years without the knowledge of anyone at the firm. She has worked for Bobby since he opened his first practice as a solo practitioner, and the two were very close. Rebecca left the firm for unknown reasons between the seventh and eighth seasons of the show. In reality, like a number of other cast members, Hamilton had been fired because of budget cuts.
* Steve Harris as Eugene Young (1997–2004), was the second highest-ranking partner at the firm, and senior partner for the show's final season. Eugene also struggled with his conscience, but was more strongly devoted to the letter of the law and legal ethics than either Bobby or Jimmy. This was largely due to the influence of his older brother, who died in prison after a coerced confession led to his conviction for a crime he didn't commit. The first season made several references to the fact that Eugene was formerly a private investigator before becoming an attorney.
Camryn Manheimas Ellenor Frutt(1997–2004), another partner at the firm. Ellenor, a single mother, had a child via artificial insemination, and often struggled with issues related to her weight and appearance. A running joke on the show was that nearly all of Ellenor's friends were murderers. This was because many episodes would open with Ellenor visiting or being visited by her previously unseen "friends" who would almost always reveal that they were being charged with murder, or that there was a body in their presence that they knew nothing about. Another recurring joke was Ellenor's tendency to knock across the room those who annoyed her past a certain point.
Kelli Williamsas Lindsay Dole(1997–2003), a partner at the firm, Bobby's ex-girlfriend and later, his wife. Lindsay was stalked and terrorized by three mentally unbalanced clients over the series, the last of whom she was convicted of murdering (the verdict was later reversed due to prosecutorial misconduct by A.D.A. Walsch). She and Bobby have a child together, but separated when Lindsey left to start her own firm, and eventually decided to divorce after she caught Bobby beginning an affair with a former girlfriend. At the end of the seventh season, Lindsay was invited by Eugene to rejoin the practice, but vanished without explanation before the eighth season. In reality, Williams was one of several actors fired from the show due to budget cuts.
Lara Flynn Boyleas Helen Gamble(1997–2003), an Assistant District Attorney who often prosecuted cases in which the firm was involved. Helen, a personal friend of many of the firm's partners, is nevertheless relentless in her attempts to prosecute those who do wrong, sometimes crossing the line of legal ethics. During the series, Helen was a roommate to both Lindsay and Ellenor. Helen also vanishes without explanation after the seventh season, as Boyle was fired from the show due to budget cuts.
Marla Sokoloffas Lucy Hatcher(1998–2003, 2004), the firm's wise-cracking, nosy receptionist. Lucy was hired after Rebecca became an associate. Lucy later became a part-time counselor for rape victims. Lucy initially vanished without explanation after the seventh season (like the other cast members, Sokoloff was fired due to budget cuts), but she returned as a guest star for the final episodes of the show.
Jason Kravitsas Richard Bay(1999–2001), a diminutive, hard-nosed Assistant District Attorney and frequent nemesis of the firm, Richard was killed by associates of a man that he had just successfully prosecuted. He was close friends with Helen Gamble, and on several occasions tried to initiate a romantic relationship with her.
Ron Livingstonas Alan Lowe (2001-2002), who replaced Richard Bay as the firm's recurring adversary for a while. However, his character was underutilized and vanished without explanation after one season.
Jessica Capshawas Jamie Stringer(2002–2004), a high-strung, promiscuous Harvard Law School graduate and associate at the firm. Jamie joined the practice after Lindsay was convicted of murder, and eventually became involved in a brief romantic relationship with Eugene. When the firm dissolved, she joined Jimmy in his own practice.
Chyler Leighas Claire Wyatt(2003), Lindsay's associate at her new practice. In the seventh season finale, she was invited to join the firm, but vanished without explanation before the eighth season due to Leigh being one of those fired due to budget cuts.
James Spaderas Alan Shore(2003–2004), a highly unethical friend of Ellenor's who was hired by the firm at the beginning of the show's final season. In the last few episodes of the show's run, He was fired from the firm and went to work at Crane, Poole & Schmidt. This transitioned his character into the spin-off series " Boston Legal".
Rhona Mitraas Tara Wilson (2003–2004), another associate. Tara was fired after informing Alan Shore of his impending dismissal from the firm, and helping him steal client files. Along with James Spader, Mitra also joined the cast of "Boston Legal" after "The Practice" ended.
Bill Smitrovichas Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Walsh, was Helen Gamble's mentorand a chief prosecutor for the DA's office. Walsh despises criminal defense attorneys -especially those at Bobby Donnell's firm. Walsh once coerced a man charged with murderin order to obtain a confession. Bobby Donnell, who was a young and inexperienced lawyer at the time, believed his client was guilty and didn't appeal the sentence. Walsh is also the D.A. who prosecuted and convicted Lindsay Dole for murder. It was later discovered that he had withheld a forensics report which might have supported a self-defenseplea. This contributed to groundswhich allowed Lindsay's conviction to be overturned. He once told Helen Gamble there was a time when he once befriended criminal defense attorneys, but that time had long since passed.
Holland Tayloras Judge Roberta Kittleson. Kittleson is an older woman with a notorious sex life, but is considered an excellent judge. She has a relationship with Jimmy during a few seasons of the show. Later, when Lindsay is being threatened by a stalker, Jimmy wrongly believes that Judge Kittleson may be the culprit, which leads to tensions between them. They eventually break up.
Linda Huntas Judge Zoey Hiller, a senior Judge that many of the firm's lawyers frequently appear before in trial. Hiller is known for being an excellent judge that always goes by the letter of the law. She has a close friendship with Bobby. Though they frequently quarrel on application of the law, they both maintain a strong respect for each other.
Ray Abruzzoas Detective Mike McGuire. Mike is regularly the detective who interacts with the firm attorneys and their clients.
* Kate Burton as A.D.A. Susan Alexander. She appears regularly in episodes from the pilot through the series finale.
Edward Herrmannas attorney Anderson Pearson. Pearson works at the firm Finley-Hoag as counsel for the tobacco industry and is Lindsay's former law professor. He originally is opposing counsel in the tobacco industry lawsuit, and later becomes a client of the firm when he is charged with murder.
* Anna Gunn as A.D.A. Jean Ward.
James Pickens, Jr.as Detective Mike McKrew.
Notable guest stars
The series holds the
Emmy Awardrecord for most wins in the Guest Actor and Actress categories for a single series, as well as most nominations in those categories. Emmys went to John Larroquette, Edward Herrmann, James Whitmore, Beah Richards, Michael Emerson, Charles S. Dutton, Alfre Woodard, Sharon Stone, and William Shatner. In addition, Tony Danza, Paul Dooley, Henry Winkler, Marlee Matlin, Rene Auberjonois, and Betty Whitewere nominated but did not win. Larroquette, who won for his guest appearance during the second season, was nominated again for an episode from the sixth season, but did not win.The series won the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for five consecutive years (from 1998–2002).
Ed Asnerappeared as two different judges in seasons 2 and 8
Lake Bellas Sally Heep(final four episodes of season 8)
Gil Bellowsas Billy Alan Thomas ("Axe Murderer", Season 2 - crossover with " Ally McBeal")
Andre Braugheras Dr. Ben Gideon ("Gideon's Crossover", Season 5 - crossover with " Gideon's Crossing")
Tony Danzaas Tommy Silva (three episode story arc, Season 3)
Bruce Davisonas Scott Wallace.
Patrick Dempseyas Dr. Paul Stewart (three episode Arc, Season 8)
Rebecca De Mornayas Hannah Rose (final four episodes of Season 8)
Charles Durningas Stephen Donnell ("Passing Go", Season 3; and "Death Penalties", Season 4)
Charles S. Duttonas Leonard Marshall ("Killing Time", Season 6)
Calista Flockhartas Ally McBeal ("Axe Murderer", Season 2 - crossover with " Ally McBeal")
* Albert Hall as Judge Seymore Walsh, a recurring character in both "
Ally McBeal" and "The Practice"
Anthony Healdas two different characters: California judge Wallace Cooper, and his "Boston Public" character, Scott Guber ("The Day After", Season 5 - crossover with " Boston Public")
Gregory Itzin(five appearances different characters through the show's entire run)
John Larroquetteas Joey Heric(six episodes of Seasons 2, 3 and 6)
Marlee Matlinas Sally Berg ("Life Sentence", Season 4)
Chi McBrideas Steven Harper ("The Day After", Season 5 - crossover with " Boston Public")
Chris O'Donnellas Brad Stanfield (four episode story arc, Season 8)
Vincent Pastoreas Lenny Pescatore (final three episodes of Season 8)
C.C.H. Pounderas Helene Washington ("The Day After" and "Awakenings", Season 5)
Kim Raveras Victoria Keenan ("Reasonable Doubts", Season 2)
Ernie Sabellaas Harland Bassett (four episodes in season 4 and 5 including "The Case of Harland Bassett", Season 5)
William Shatneras Denny Crane(five of the final six episodes of Season 8)
Lane Smith(Season 6, Episode 1)
Sharon Stoneas Sheila Carlisle (three episode story arc, Season 8)
Betty Whiteas Katherine Piper (Episode 13, 14, and 15, Season 8)
James Whitmoreas Raymond Oz
D.B. Woodsideas Aaron Wilton ("The Means", Season 2)
Aunjanue Ellisas Sharon Young. She appears as the wife/ex-wife of Eugene Young in four episodes, Target Practice, Crossfire, Do Unto Others, season 3, Committed, season 4)
The Practice had 8 seasons and a total of 168 episodes.
In 2007, 20th Century Fox released the first season of "The Practice" on DVD in Region 1, 2, and 4.
"The Practice", Volume 1, was released as a Four-Disc DVD Set in North America on
June 12, 2007. The set includes all six episodes of season 1 and the first seven episodes of season 2. It also includes a featurette, "Setting Up The Practice".cite web | publisher = TVShowsonDVD.com | title = The Practice - Date, Details & Artwork For The Practice - Volume 1 Hits Retailers | url = http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=7026 | 2007-03-14| accessdate = 2008-08-24] It was released June 6, 2007, in Australia.ABC.
"Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps."
The exposure from its
January 30, 2000, post- Super Bowlepisode (attracting 23.8 million viewers) plus their weekly lead-in from early 2000 to mid-2001, the then mega-hit "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", helped the series reach its ratings peak from 1999–2001.
In Season 5, Episode 22, reference is made to the broadcast of the television series "
Boston Public" to help establish a time with regard to a suspected murder. In episode 14 of the same season, characters of both shows interact with each other.
* [http://www.marla.sokoloff.sblog.cz/ Marla Sokoloff Blog]
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