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The Philadelphia lawyer has proven a fruitful topic for Hollywood. In 1959′s “The Young Philadelphians,” Paul Newman played a young lawyer facing several ethical and emotional dilemmas as he tries to balance the needs of his fiancee, the expectations of his colleagues and his own obligation to defend his friend on murder charges. In 1993′s “Philadelphia,” Tom Hanks portrayed a gay lawyer stricken with AIDS who seeks assistance from a homophobic personal injury attorney when a prestigious Philadelphia law firm fires him for incompetence. The latest incarnation of the Philadelphia lawyer is on the small screen. And this lawyer is battling her own set of ethical dilemmas in prolific television producer Steven Bochco’s “Philly,” which will debut Tuesdays at 10 p.m. this fall on ABC-TV. The cast and crew spent some time filming exterior scenes in various locales across the city, but the bulk of the show is filmed on California sound stages. Bochco’s view of the criminal justice system has been seen from the police’s perspective in “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” and from the lawyer’s vantage point in “L.A. Law” and “Murder One.” His latest offering stars “NYPD Blue” veteran Kim Delaney (a native of Philadelphia’s Roxborough area) as Kathleen Maguire, a criminal defense attorney just a year out of law school whose law partner and mentor is shipped off to a sanitarium in the pilot episode. With Maguire overextended by the additional caseload, she reluctantly turns to ex-public defender Will Froman, played by Tom Everett Scott, of “That Thing You Do.” “Somewhere inside this guy is a great lawyer; it’s just a matter of executing,” Scott said of his character. “He sees the system for what it is and hustles it. Kim’s character is more principled. But in the end, they both agree that a client is innocent until proven guilty.” Also in the mix is Maguire’s ex-husband, Daniel X. Cavenaugh (Kyle Secor), head of the trials unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. His character is described as being a shrewdly arrogant prosecutor with a hard-charging style and a bright political future. He and Maguire have a 10-year-old son, Patrick (Scotty Leavenworth). Rick Wallace, an executive producer/director on the show who has worked with Bochco since “Hill Street,” said Philadelphia was an obvious setting for the show because both Delaney and executive producer/director Kevin Hooks are homegrown products. “But more to the point, I think it’s a beautiful city that really hasn’t been the backdrop for another show,” Wallace said. “And when we found out that the city and the film commission wanted us here and were going to be helpful to us, it was kind of a no-brainer because the city is beautiful to look at.” “And you know Steven’s history in a way is to go to different cities to do shows. ‘L.A. Law’ took place in L.A. and was a creature of that environment. ‘NYPD Blue’ took place in New York in the same way that this takes place in Philadelphia and is really a creature of New York. The idiom, the language, the entire feeling of the show is that and we wanted to do something different, and Philadelphia is really the perfect city for us.” The show’s creators also liked Philadelphians, whom Wallace described as direct and to the point but friendlier than New Yorkers, where the same production company films exterior scenes for “NYPD Blue.” “Philly” will be a creature of the city whose name it bears, Wallace said. The show tries to use the city’s court system as a model for certain scenes such as the way that prisoners are brought in and out of courtrooms to the way plea bargaining is handled. Even the courtrooms and hallways depicted in the show were modeled after those in City Hall. “The way that the system [in Philadelphia] works is really suited to our show,” Wallace said. “I don’t know how you would compare the number of cases that go through the system here. But our show isn’t a show about a lot of cases. It’s a show about the process of plea bargaining as much as anything else. We got real interested at how fast it was here, how much goes through the system that doesn’t end up in courtrooms beyond prelims or arraignments.” Bochco has enlisted the services of co-creator Alison Cross, who wrote the 1989 television movie “Roe v. Wade,” to head up the show’s writing team. This is the first foray into series television for the former journalist, whose husband is an attorney. GETTING A FEEL FOR PHILLY Cross and her cohorts traveled to Philadelphia earlier this year and met with Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, members of the Philadelphia Public Defenders’ Association as well as a group of local female criminal defense attorneys. Before any of that, though, Cross headed down to the Criminal Justice Center to not only sit in on cases but get a feel for the environment as a whole. “I basically spent the day there moving around from courtroom to courtroom and case to case,” Cross said. “But what was just as interesting to me was listening in on conversation in elevators, stairwells and hallways.” Assisting the creative team is Joseph McGettigan, a former Philadelphia and Delaware County Assistant District Attorney. McGettigan is best known for his part in the successful prosecution of millionaire John E. du Pont for the 1996 murder of Olympic Gold Medalist Dave Schultz. He also led the prosecution team of three Philadelphia men — including one who received the death penalty — who took part in the 1986 murder of a 16-year-old boy because he refused to give them his pair of Air Jordan sneakers. After spending a few years away from the courtroom working for a security company, McGettigan just started as technical adviser for “Philly,” counseling the creative team on Pennsylvania law as well as courtroom procedure and composition. McGettigan was introduced to Bochco several years ago by his brother-in-law, Mike Post, who composed the music for “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “NYPD Blue.” When “Philly” was looking for a technical adviser, Bochco thought of McGettigan and asked Post to put him in touch. McGettigan had been in California working for the security company when the call came this spring. After being a prosecutor for 17 years, McGettigan said he has no qualms working on a show where the heroine is a defense attorney. “I think prosecutors are very good people, and I express that point of view whenever I can during the creative process,” McGettigan said. “I’d love to have every ADA portrayed sympathetically because those are my colleagues and I still see it as my profession. But people, no matter the profession, run the gamut in terms of character. And in the scripts I’ve seen so far, I think we have been respectful of the profession.” After the success of “L.A. Law” in the late 1980s, one of that show’s other chief creative forces, writer and producer David E. Kelley, went off on his own and created successful legal dramas such as “Picket Fences,” “The Practice,” and “Ally McBeal.” An attorney himself, Kelley’s clever dialogue and over-the-top plotlines made those shows ratings winners. But he also drew the ire of some lawyers who believe that Kelley’s brand of law drama leaves little room for a realistic and respectful portrayal of lawyers. Bochco went a different route after “L.A. Law,” choosing gritty, more realistic fare such as “NYPD Blue” and “Murder One.” While “NYPD Blue” now stands as one of television’s most successful and enduring police dramas, “Murder One” didn’t catch on and was canceled after its second season. In the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, the show followed one, high-profile trial in Los Angeles through the course of an entire season. Critics loved the show’s first-rate scripts and performances, but viewers grew weary of its methodical pace. Wallace said “Philly” will not take the road of Kelley’s success, instead following in the tradition of Bochco’s more authentic portrayal of the legal system. While not shooting in strict documentary style, Wallace said the producers are looking to do a show that is realistic and edgy and not as theatrical as some of the Kelley shows. “We didn’t presume that we could do as well as those shows, and we didn’t want to occupy the same niche so the area that we are dealing with really has to do with keeping the system going at all costs, not letting the system break down,” Wallace said. “That way we could do what Steven always likes to do, which is to portray a group of people whose relationships for the most part take place in the work place. And in Kathleen’s case we go outside for her son, but we had an opportunity to deal with all of the bargaining that goes on and all of the behind-the-scenes activities, and we feel like that is an area that has been unexplored so that’s what was decided. “So there will be a lot of trial scenes. But some cases will be resolved before there is a trial. But what we won’t do is what ‘The Practice’ or ‘L.A. Law’ did, which is to play five or six beats of a trial, and the dramatics of the show come out of whether the person you are identifying with is innocent or guilty. It’s not about that. It’s much more about the relationships and how you juggle a huge case load.” Scott said the show is fast-paced but also deals with the congestion of cases in the system, making it seem like an endless process in many ways. The writers, he said, show all sides of everyone involved in the system. The judges, for instance, are often quirky. And while the heroes are the defense attorneys, he said police and prosecutors are not made out to be buffoons. “A lot of the focus is on plea bargaining,” Scott said. ” ‘NYPD Blue’ is not focused on car chases and catching the bad guys. It focuses on interrogation and the office dynamic. And I think our show is the same thing. We spend a lot of time telling our clients to take the deal or not take the deal.” One person who doesn’t appreciate the “Philly” program’s version of reality is Abraham. Cathy Abookire, Abraham’s spokeswoman, said when the “Philly” crew visited earlier this year, they told the D.A. that they would do their very best to portray officers of the court accurately and fairly. Abookire said Abraham was skeptical because the show’s star is a defense attorney, which means prosecutors will most likely wind up being the heels. And it was no surprise to Abraham when she received a call from a local reporter who had just viewed a screening of the pilot episode of “Philly.” The reporter relayed information about a scene that depicts Scott’s character engaging in sexual activity with the prosecutor in a room adjacent to the courtroom while the two try to hammer out a plea agreement. “Lynne’s greatest concern is always for the victims of crime,” Abookire said. “And in this case, her greatest concern is that victims of crime will get the wrong impression of how cases are conducted and how the people involved conduct themselves. … I think Lynne’s greatest hope is that the show will be canceled very quickly.” Wallace said Abraham and other detractors should not confuse the show with reality. Regardless of how realistic a television drama is, he said, it’s still fiction. “Of all the shows I have done with Steven, humor is always a very big part of what we do and sex occasionally rears its pretty head as well. And sex is also a very real part of life, and, as you know on ‘NYPD Blue,’ we aren’t afraid to deal with it to the extent they let us deal with it. To presume that sexual involvements don’t happen among people who work in the criminal justice system is probably an erroneous assumption, and I think we do it with taste and humor. So my response is that I am sorry she is offended and that she sees it in that light, but we don’t see it in that light. We think it is very respectful.” McGettigan, who earned a reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor and worked briefly under Abraham at the beginning of her term, said he did not want to specifically respond to his former boss. “But I’d remind everyone that Martin Sheen isn’t the president, Barry Bostwick isn’t the mayor of New York City and Barney Rubbell’s really not an actor,” McGettigan said. “This is dramatic television where we try to be as realistic as possible within a dramatic framework. I mean, does anyone know six people that sit around New York doing nothing but drink coffee like they do on ‘Friends?’ If they do, let me know because I want that job.” Abookire said Abraham understands that television is not reality. “Sex is part of life but it’s not part of a plea agreement,” she said. INSIDE INFORMATION Aside from leaning on McGettigan, several of the show’s actors researched their parts by spending time with attorneys. Scott was assisted by Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Don Padova as well as two defense attorneys from New York. He said he felt it was necessary to find a Philadelphia lawyer, because the city’s criminal justice system has its own quirks. Scott met Padova through a mutual friend and traveled to Philadelphia before shooting the pilot to meet with him. He said he quizzed Padova about his career and sought out some war stories before heading down to the Criminal Justice Center to sit in on closing arguments in a death penalty case. “I just couldn’t relate to having that much pressure placed on you,” Scott said. “The stakes are so high. You’re talking about someone’s life being in the balance.” While the show only has a guarantee of 13 episodes from ABC, McGettigan remains optimistic about the show’s future. But with so many of today’s top television dramas focusing on lawyers, “Philly” will have to find its niche with viewers. “What will make it different than the others is if they manage to capture Philly,” McGettigan said. “L.A. is L.A. New York is New York. ‘The Practice’ is set in Boston but it could just as well be in Minneapolis. But ‘Philly’ is Philly. And that will set it apart.”

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