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Picket Fences is a 60-minute American television drama centering around the residents of the fictional community of Rome, Wisconsinmarker. The show initially ran from September 1, 1992, to June 26, 1996, on the CBS television network in the United Statesmarker. Picket Fences was created by producer David E. Kelley. The show sometimes struggled to maintain a stable prime-time audience and had fluctuating ratings. In its first season on the air it placed 80th in the prime-time Nielsen ratings and in its second season it moved to 66th. The show's exteriors were shot in Monrovia, Californiamarker, a suburb of Los Angelesmarker, with many of the townspeople appearing in the background of episodes where possible.


The series follows the lives of the residents of the small town of Rome, Wisconsinmarker, where weird things happen, including cows giving birth to human babies, transgender teachers and a spate of people turning up dead in freezers. Struggling to maintain order in this odd community is Sheriff Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt). He is married to the town doctor, Jill (Kathy Baker), his second wife. They attempt to bring up their three children, Kimberly (Holly Marie Combs) (from Jimmy's first marriage), Matthew (Justin Shenkarow) and Zachary (Adam Wylie). Lauren Holly and Costas Mandylor played impulsive and immature sheriff's deputies Max and Kenny. Bombastic lawyer Douglas Wambaugh (Fyvush Finkel), usually irritated Judge Henry Bone (Ray Walston). Wambaugh refused to hear any confessions of guilt from his clients as he feared that it would only stand in the way of adequately defending them in court and Bone's rulings seemed to be directed more by his own moral compass than by point of law. After several prosecutors came and went, Don Cheadle joined the cast as John Littleton. Kelly Connell played medical examiner Carter Pike (who was regularly begging to be deputized) and Zelda Rubenstein portrayed police dispatcher Ginny Weedon. Other well-known actors who were in the cast included Marlee Matlin, Richard Masur and Dabbs Greer.

Picket Fences frequently dealt with difficult and/or bizarre topics such as abortion, homosexuality (and homosexual adoption), transsexuality, belief in God, medical ethics, polygamy, polyamory, adolescent sexuality (including nocturnal emissions), date rape, cryonics, the Holocaust, shoe fetishism, masturbation, spontaneous human combustion and constitutional rights. Illustrative of the subject matter is that the regular cast included a judge, two lawyers and a medical examiner/pathologist. Religious issues were frequently discussed and the characters of the town's Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests were frequently recurring roles.


One of the oddest aspects of the series is the many town mayors who never lasted long. Holding one of the most risky positions in TV history, Rome's mayors often met strange fates:

  • Mayor Bill Pugen (Michael Keenen): spontaneous combustion after murder conviction
  • Mayor Rachel Harris (Leigh Taylor-Young): hounded from office for starring in an adult film
  • Acting Mayor Howard Buss (Robert Cornthwaite): suffered from Alzheimer's Disease, fatally shot by his son
  • Acting Mayor Jill Brock (Kathy Baker): jailed, lost bid for re-election
  • Mayor Ed Lawson (Richard Masur): entombed in a freezer by his wife, then decapitated
  • Acting Mayor Maxine Stewart (Lauren Holly): shot and wounded by a shock jock’s fan
  • Mayor Laurie "The Dancing Bandit" Bey (Marlee Matlin): mayor at series end, despite bank robbery convictions. She was offered the job as part of her 3,000 hours community service sentencing.

Main cast


Picket Fences had a total of 88 episodes and four seasons.


The series had two crossover episodes with another David E. Kelley series, Chicago Hope, one occurring in each series. In the first, on Picket Fences, Dr. Jill Brock accompanies Douglas Wambaugh to Chicago Hope Hospital over concerns of his heart. In the second, Wambaugh is back at Chicago Hope Hospital causing trouble for the doctors. Lauren Holly later joined the cast of Chicago Hope as Dr. Jeremy Hanlon and Tom Skerritt appeared in a different role as a guest star.

Also, as the story goes David E. Kelley and Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files) were talking in a parking lot on the Fox lot one day and thought it might be interesting to have Mulder and Scully visit Rome, Wisconsin for an X-Files episode. Originally, the two shows would be shot with different viewpoints one from the X-Files perspective and the other from Picket Fences. The official approval was never given by Fox and CBS, so the only remnants we have of this effort are the X-Files episode "Red Museum" and the Picket Fences episode "Away in the Manger" having similar plotlines involving cows. While every reference to Picket Fences has been purged from the X-Files episode, there still are some small winks left in the Picket Fences episode referring to the happenings at the X-Files and some minor characters there.

Show Episode # Episode Name Airdate
Picket Fences 3-7 "Rebels With Causes" November 11, 1994
Chicago Hope 1-13 "Small Sacrifices" January 23, 1995

DVD release

On June 19, 2007, 20th Century Fox released the first season of Picket Fences on DVD in Region 1.


Picket Fences won fourteen Emmy Awards (including "Best Dramatic Series" twice) and one Golden Globe in its four-year run. A substantial following for the show persists to today, and it is popular as reruns in western Europe, especially in Francemarker, Germanymarker, and Denmarkmarker. It was rerun in French in Canada on Radio-Canada under the title Bienvenue a Rome, USA, it is currently airing in the UKmarker on The Hallmark Channel.

See also


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