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I'm Sorry, World

A few months back, I watched the first episode of Boston Public, then subsequently underwent an out-of-body experience. That's the only explanation I have for the subsequent review I wrote: over the course of the article, I said moderately kind things about the show, including:

"And, for a Kelley show, this is amazingly believable."

"The rest of us -- including people like me who normally use the words "David E. Kelley" as an epithet -- might even be willing to overlook these and other Kelleyisms, provided the show continues to grapple with the tough questions that the first episode raises."

"And even if the show slips into the usual Kelley pattern -- a strong first season, with subsequent seasons slipping into self-parody -- it still has something for everyone."

I'd like to go on the record as stating that I have no idea as to my whereabouts on October 25, 2000. I was kidnapped by aliens. Or abducted by covert government operatives and forced to write the review between bouts of electroshock torture. Or coming off a three-day rap session with America's finest freelance pharmaceutical professionals.

Or doing anything other than watching a show, finding it surprisingly enjoyable and gushing like a musical heroine to the fine folks at TeeVee. Because, really, I've watched subsequent episodes of Boston Public. I've watched subsequent promotions for episodes of Boston Public. And each time I do, I die a little more inside.

How can I not, with plots about suicides, bras, breast implants and teenaged cheerleaders who are apparently employing the same choreographer who gave the world Showgirls? Whatever early promise this show had was squandered in the first episode.

I should have seen this coming. I should have realized that David E. Kelley is falling victim to the same cycle of diminishing returns that's wracked the high-tech industry lately: one phenomenon precipitates a boom time, but as the zeitgeist cools, each subsequent innovation garners more hype and less long-term impact.

Think I'm lying? Consider the following: the World Wide Web, leading into B-to-C web sites that were supposed to make the Web pay for itself, leading into the B-to-B web sites that were supposed to bail out the B-to-C web sites, leading into P-to-P business strategies that were supposed to entice hype-weary bitheads into thinking that perhaps we could do something different with networked wireless doodads. Each little buzzword had a briefer life span than the one before it.

Now think of the Kelley career arc: Picket Fences followed by Chicago Hope followed by The Practice followed by Ally McBeal followed by Snoops followed by Boston Public. From a historical perspective, it should have been clear that, as a series, Boston Public hit its apex in the first half-hour.

The only good news that can come out of this -- aside from discovering that I apparently spent twenty-four hours having the kind of supernatural experience Whitley Streiber only wishes he could write about -- is that we all know an incontrovertible truth about David E. Kelley series. The next one won't peak in the first half-hour. No, using the law of diminishing TV returns, it's going to peak in the previews before the first episode.

You have been warned.


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