David E. Kelley ‘worried’ about new NBC series

'Ally McBeal' creator talks 'Harry's Law' at TCA panel

David E. Kelley, the creator of such hit shows as “Ally McBeal,” “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” is justifiably concerned.

NBC has given his new show, “Harry’s Law,” six episodes to find an audience, and he fears that may not be enough.

“We are worried,” he told scribes Thursday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. “Historically, my shows start slower and build, and a lot of my shows get mixed reactions with the pilot. Sometimes the reaction of the pilot is ‘I don’t get that.’ You don’t get the time today you got in the past. Most shows don’t find their footing until episodes seven, eight or nine. It would be nice if it was like the old days, when you get 22, or at least 13.”

“Harry’s Law,” which premieres Monday at 10 p.m., stars Kathy Bates as a former patent attorney who opens up a storefront legal office and takes a potpourri of cases in a crime-ridden Cincinnati neighborhood.

NBC is sure to give the show plenty of promotion during Sunday’s Golden Globes telecast, but that may not make a difference. Even if a series gets out of the gate well — think “FlashForward” or “The Event” — it doesn’t mean that it will turn into a hit or last beyond a single season.

“It’s tough sledding and a difficult timeslot, and we’re not conventional,” Kelley continued. “We have a 60-year-old lead, and not many shows do. But I have to believe that in a universe of 500-plus channels, there has to be room for one, two or three series willing to engage in topical debate.

“I realize you alienate a good part of your constituency when you do that, but any writer at the start has to decide what he wants to write and the stories he wants to tell.”