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'Practice's' lawyers to move to another firm

March 11, 2004|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

The law offices of Young, Frutt and Berluti -- the fierce criminal law team of ABC's "The Practice" -- will close its doors for good on May 16 when the Emmy-winning drama ends after its eighth season and some of its characters move into a new firm and the high-end world of civil law.

The new series, which has no title yet, will join ABC's fall schedule, ABC president of entertainment Susan Lyne announced Wednesday. Viewers will be introduced to the new firm before "The Practice" ends, but the characters that will move to the new show have not been determined, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television said.

"The Practice" had dipped badly in the ratings after ABC moved it to Monday nights last season. The show's creator/executive producer fired six key cast members last May when the network cut the show's budget in half.

Pundits were doubtful the show could continue after that, but "The Practice" was invigorated this season with the addition of new cast members, especially James Spader. A move back to Sunday nights also helped.

The new show is rumored to be a spinoff for Spader, who could not be reached for comment.

ABC was interested in either a ninth season of "The Practice" or a new legal drama created by writer-producer David E. Kelley. For creative reasons, Kelley decided he preferred to use some of the characters to develop a new ensemble series focused on a high-end civil law firm in Boston. ABC has ordered 22 episodes, and the series will be lighter in tone than "The Practice."

"We're hoping to have Spader, but our deal with the network is not contingent on that," said Kelley's spokeswoman Stacey Luchs. "The plans are that several of the characters will appear on the show but no deals are in place for talent. David plans to use the tail end of 'The Practice' as a springboard of sorts for the new show.' "

"The Practice" won the Emmy for outstanding drama series in 1998 and a total of 12 Emmys throughout its run. It also earned a Golden Globe award for best drama series, a Peabody award and the Humanitas Prize in 2002 and 2003.

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