Will the creative stamp of Steven Bochco remain on "L.A. Law" now that he has exited as executive producer to turn his attention to "Doogie Howser, M.D."?
"Well, he was in my parking space this morning," cracked Rick Wallace, the show's new co-executive producer. "I don't know if it's within his authority, or just a horse going back to the barn."
The new producing team in charge of "L.A. Law"--Wallace, executive producer David Kelley and supervising producer William M. Finkelstein, all veterans of the show--say that "L.A. Law" will continue in the same creative vein despite Bochco's departure.
For one thing, said Kelley, who was promoted from co-producer, Bochco has not completely severed his ties with the NBC legal drama. "I think his title is executive consultant--he'll still be reading every script and giving notes and input on every script," Kelley said.
"L.A. Law" went through one upheaval during the 1987-88 season, when creative differences between Bochco and the show's co-creator and then-supervising producer, Terry Louise Fisher, led to her dismissal and an ugly exchange of lawsuits. Bochco, who had planned to make Fisher executive producer in order to concentrate on his multi-series deal with ABC, ended up returning to the job for another season.
While he described that period as "uncomfortable," Finkelstein said the void left by Fisher was quickly filled by the other producers--by necessity. "You can't take a week off to gather your thoughts," he said. "In terms of actually doing the show, the effect of losing Terry quickly receded because it had to."
Kelley said that the main challenge this season is not adjusting to the staff changes, but rather keeping the surprises in a fourth-season show; after a season or two, the critics inevitably begin looking for the cracks.
'I think we got a little bit of that last season--I think that it was more hip to take shots at 'L.A. Law' than it had been in previous seasons," Kelley said. "Certainly the honeymoon stage of our history is over.
"(But) I think as time goes on, we have gotten a growing appreciation from our critics and our viewers. Some shows are better than others, but by and large we are delivering the same product."