ABC’s decision to renew David E. Kelley’s The Practice at about one-half its reported $7 million-per-episode license fee forced him to choose between two options -- bringing the whole cast back at reduced salaries or keeping some and letting others go, Kelley said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Hollywood Tuesday.
"I chose the latter because the economic realities coincided with the creative needs of the show," Kelley said. "This is an old show, and it will be a tremendous burden to relaunch ourselves. I really look at this as a challenge, a new beginning. And we can’t count on our viewing constituency -- we have to give them a reason to come back."
Last May, ABC and Kelley announced that the show would be entirely recast, with only four cast members returning and James Spader coming in as the new lead, an ethically challenged attorney.
Kelley also said Sharon Stone is definitely coming on for several episodes next season, and former lead Dylan McDermott has signed for four episodes, which Kelley hasn’t scripted yet.
While Kelley was clearly angry about ABC’s decision last January to move The Practice from its established Sunday 10 p.m. time period to Mondays at 9 p.m., he said he also learned that viewers weren’t passionate enough about the show to follow its move.
Now that Kelley has recast the show and is relaunching it, he said: "If the viewers are disappointed by the product, they’ll let us know by tuning us out."
Kelley said he intends to write about 14 of the series' 22 episodes this season, about the same as last.
He is focusing his time on CBS’ The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H., and The Practice, while handing over the reins of Fox’s Boston Public to executive producer and showrunner Jason Katims, he added.
"I find that I do my best work when I write about 30-35 scripts per year," Kelley said. "Less than that and I get rusty. With two shows, I perform better, I’m more rested."