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David E. Kelley on Whether He Could Return to Broadcast TV: ‘I Don’t Think So’

David E. Kelley spent a career in broadcast television producing quippy legal shows—”Ally McBeal,” “The Practice,” “Boston Legal”—that were the gold standard for successful, episodic storytelling. But his newest series “Goliath” is a dark, serialized, anti-hero drama that will stream exclusively on Amazon.

He likes the change. Asked Sunday at the Television Critics Association press tour whether he would ever go back to working in broadcast, Kelley said, “I don’t think so.”

Kelly indicated that he would not be able to have done a show similar in tone and structure to “Goliath” were he still on broadcast.

“One of the nice things of doing a show for Amazon is that you’re allowed to be that complicated with your characters,” Kelley said. “You don’t have to write your protagonists that reveal their redemptive souls at every turn. These people are flawed. Sometimes their flaws overshadow their positive attributes. They’re very complicated people.”

Speaking to reporters after the TCA panel for “Goliath,” Kelley expanded on his criticism of broadcast’s creative restraints.

“Broadcast TV, I don’t think they aspire to make a show that’s anybody’s favorite show, because that’s too polarizing,” he said. “If somebody really loves something, there may be others out there hating it. I think they aim right down the middle. They want shows that are good, that enough people watch and that can live happily for a long time.”

Asked whether there’s a version of “Goliath” that could work on broadcast, Kelley said, “I guess it is possible. If broadcast gets rid of commercials and changes their storytelling form, then yes.”

But Kelley is not thrilled with every aspect of Amazon. He criticized the streaming service’s ease of use, comparing it unfavorably to Netflix.

“I am a little daunted by the fact that Amazon shows aren’t the easiest to watch,” he said. “That’s getting better. I’m a dinosaur. I just turn on the remote and want to see it come on the screen. Netflix has been easy to figure out. Amazon’s a little harder. You gotta get a gizmo and a gadget and a hookup and a sync-up. They nee to get better at that, and they are. But it’s a concern.”

Kelley also offered his endorsement to Steven Bochco and Bill Finkelstein’s plan to revive “L.A. Law” with Fox, which Bochco revealed last week on “The Rich Eisen Show.” Kelley had worked as a writer and exec producer on the classic legal show, which Bochco created.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Kelley said. “I’m told Billy Finkelstein is coming back to write it and take charge of it and I think he’s a brilliant writer. So I’ll be watching. It’s not something I would want to go back and do again myself, because I’ve done it. But I think it’s actually a good idea. It was a great show in it’s time.”



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