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Kelley, 20th ink new pact

Do good fences make good neighbors? They do on the Fox lot, where David E. Kelley, the Emmy Award-winning creator of CBS’ “Picket Fences,” has extended his exclusive production deal with Twentieth TV.

Sources close to the producer say the extension is for three years and in the neighborhood of $ 1.7 million per year.

The new pact means Kelley’s services will be exclusive to Twentieth through June 1997.

“Picket Fences” was the first installment in a two-series pact Kelley forged with CBS in 1991. His next show reportedly will try to reinvigorate the medical drama genre and is considered a strong contender for the next fall.

The deal suggests that Twentieth TV is making a fervent commitment to producing quality dramas. “My theory is that if we’re going to be serious about producing hour series, then this is one player I want to be in business with,” said Twentieth TV prexy Peter Roth.

Kelley entered into an exclusive four-year deal with Twentieth in 1990. Under his David E. Kelley Prods. banner, he has produced “Picket Fences.”

While the series picked up three Emmy Awards last September, including best drama series, “Fences” has still hovered around a 9.3 Nielsen rating this season. However, the Friday night franchise has not had much of a lead-in from CBS’ 8-10 p.m. block.

Kelley is among a select cadre of executive producers who devote a large portion of their time and talents to the actual writing of their series.

This past season, he wrote the lion’s share of “Fences” episodes, so if he is to undertake a second series at CBS he would have to reach out to a capable lieutenant to run one series while he devoted the majority of his time to writing the other.

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