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Picket Fences
Picket Fences title.svg
GenreFamily drama
Legal drama
Created byDavid E. Kelley
Opening theme"Picket Fences" by Stewart Levin
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes88 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • David E. Kelley
  • Alice West
Running time42 minutes
Production companies
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 18, 1992 (1992-09-18) –
June 26, 1996 (1996-06-26)

Picket Fences is an American family drama television series about the residents of the town of Rome, Wisconsin, created and produced by David E. Kelley. The show ran from September 18, 1992, to June 26, 1996, on the CBS television network in the United States. It sometimes struggled to maintain a stable primetime audience and had fluctuating ratings, due in part to its Friday night death slot. In its first season on the air it placed 63rd in the prime-time Nielsen ratings and in its second season it moved to 61st. The show's exteriors were shot in the L.A. suburb of Monrovia, California, with many of the townspeople appearing in the background of episodes.[1]


The series follows the lives of the residents of the small town of Rome, Wisconsin, where weird things happen, including cows' udders exploding and people turning up dead in freezers. The show dealt with unusual topics for the primetime television of the period, such as abortion, incest, homophobia and LGBT adoption, transsexuality, racism, belief in God, medical ethics, polygamy, polyamory, adolescent sexuality, date rape, cryonics, the Holocaust, shoe fetishism, masturbation, animal sacrifice, 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. Religious issues were frequently discussed, and the town's Catholic and Episcopal priests were frequently recurring characters, as well as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh's relationships in his local Jewish temple.

The Brock family

Struggling to maintain order in the community is Sheriff Jimmy Brock (Tom Skerritt). Sheriff Brock is 52 years old,[2] married to the town doctor, Jill (Kathy Baker), his second wife. They attempt are raising their three children, Kimberly (Holly Marie Combs) from Jimmy's first marriage to Lydia Brock (Cristine Rose), Matthew (Justin Shenkarow) and Zachary (Adam Wylie).

Sheriff's office

Maxine 'Max' Stewart (Lauren Holly) and Kenny Lacos (Costas Mandylor) are impulsive and slightly immature sheriff's deputies. Kelly Connell played medical examiner Carter Pike (who regularly begged to be deputized) and Zelda Rubinstein portrayed police dispatcher Ginny Weedon.

The courthouse

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 points of law, though his decisions were almost never reversed. After several prosecutors came and went, Don Cheadle joined the cast as John Littleton.


Other actors who were in the cast included Marlee Matlin as Mayor Laurie Bey / The Dancing Bandit, Richard Masur as Ed Lawson, Roy Brocksmith as elementary school principal Michael Oslo, Jack Murdock as ethically challenged city councilman Harold Lundstrom, Roy Dotrice as Father Gary Barrett, a Catholic priest, and Dabbs Greer as the Reverend Henry Novotny, priest of the local Episcopal church.


The town frequently changed mayors, who often met strange fates:


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4
Main characters
Tom Skerritt Jimmy Brock Main
Kathy Baker Jill Brock Main
Lauren Holly Maxine Stewart Main
Costas Mandylor Kenny Lacos Main
Holly Marie Combs Kimberly Brock Main
Justin Shenkarow Matthew Brock Main
Adam Wylie Zachary Brock Main
Fyvush Finkel Douglas Wambaugh Recurring Main
Kelly Connell Carter Pike Recurring Main
Zelda Rubinstein Ginny Weedon Main
Don Cheadle John Littleton Recurring Main
Marlee Matlin Laurie Bey Guest Main
Ray Walston Henry Bone Recurring Main
Recurring characters
Dabbs Greer Henry Novotony Recurring
Roy Dotrice Gary Barrett Recurring
Roy Brocksmith Michael Oslo Recurring
Denis Arndt Franklin Dell Recurring
Sam Anderson Donald Morrell Recurring
Michael Keenan Bill Pugen Recurring
Robert Cornthwaite Howard Buss Recurring
Elisabeth Moss Cynthia Parks Recurring
Leigh Taylor-Young Rachel Harris Recurring
Richard Masur Ed Lawson Guest Recurring
Amy Aquino Joanna Diamond Recurring
Matthew Glave Bud Skeeter Recurring


Main article: List of Picket Fences episodes

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.

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

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 remaining 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.[3]


Season U.S. ratings Network Rank
1 1992-93 9.49 million CBS #63
2 1993-94 9.49 million CBS #61
3 1994-95 9.50 million CBS #64
4 1995-96 7.00 million CBS #98


The series was adapted in India in Hindi language and aired on StarPlus as Kehta Hai Dil from 2002 to 2005 produced by UTV Software Communications.[4] However, the Indian version in between deviated entirely from the story of Picket Fences.[5]

Home media and streaming

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

On August 20, 2014, Season 1 was released in Australia. [6]

Season 2 was released in Australia in December 2014.[7]

Season 3 was released in Australia in March 2016.[8]

The complete series (seasons 1–4) was released through ViaVision (Australia) in 2016. The collection is considered a Region 0 DVD, playable on all DVD players.

All seasons are also available on Region 2 formatted DVDs in Germany.

Since Thanksgiving 2021, the entire series has been available to stream on Hulu. Prior to this, Hulu had streamed seasons 1-2 only, and the series had disappeared from there for several years prior to it re-releasing on the streaming platform in 2021.

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Picket Fences

Picket Fences won fourteen Emmy Awards (including "Best Dramatic Series" twice) and one Golden Globe Award in its four-year run. A substantial following for the show persists today, and it is popular as rerun in western Europe. It was rerun in French in Canada on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation under the title Bienvenue à Rome, USA.

In 1997, the episode "Heart of Saturday Night" was ranked #96 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time.[9]

In 2002, the character of Douglas Wambaugh was ranked 47th on TV Guide's 50 Greatest Television Characters of All Time list.[10]


  1. ^ Abcarian, Robin (July 28, 2005). "Monrovia's Midwest mystique". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  2. ^ Season 2/Episode 12
  3. ^ "Picket Fences and The X-Files". Thom Holbrook's Crossovers & Spin Offs pages. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  4. ^ "Bindass". The Times of India.
  5. ^ "UTV's 'Kehta hai dil', 'Meher' top the charts". August 27, 2004.
  6. ^ "JB Hi-Fi | Picket Fences - Season 1 6 DVD". Archived from the original on December 6, 2014.
  7. ^ "Movies + TV Shows - Deals on DVD + Blu-Ray at JB Hi-Fi".
  8. ^ "Picket Fences - Season 3 ~ DVD".
  9. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997.
  10. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. pp. 191. ISBN 978-0-7624-3007-9.