Why Found-Again? I remember loving this show during its original run, but now that I look it up, I can’t figure out how I even managed to watch Picket Fences; I was in college at the time, and TV reception in the dorm was frequently abysmal.* (The exception was Fox, which is how I watched The X-Files.) I must have liked the show even more than I thought.
The Premise (“What Have We Here?” Version): Imagine if Northern Exposure eloped to the mainland US to marry Law & Order, and they compromised by living in Wisconsin.
The Premise (Official Plot Version): Picket Fences centers on the smallish town of Rome, WI, and especially on the Brock family. Father Jimmy (Tom Skerritt) is the sheriff at a time when Rome happens to be fielding some extremely weird crimes; his wife Jill (Kathy Baker) is the town doctor.
Though the whole town is an endless source of intrigue, much of the action centers around Sheriff Brock’s police station, where deputies Kenny and Maxine (Costas Mandylor and Lauren Holly) are always on the job—and, if memory serves, occasionally each other. And if you wondered what Holly Marie Combs got up to before Charmed, she plays the oldest Brock child here.
I have, however, saved my favorite for last. I’d forgotten until I saw Fyvush Finkel’s cheery face how much I love the character of Douglas Wambaugh, the lawyer who might as well be a Weeble the way he pops back up after getting smacked down in court. Wambaugh is relentless and never at a loss for words, and he is my hero.
The Verdict: I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect this show to have aged well, and parts of it haven’t. But I still love Picket Fences and all Rome’s townspeople. It’s been a long time since I saw a show full of “quirky” characters who nevertheless feel real; maybe it’s an art we’ve lost, or maybe it’s the result of my being without cable for ten years. The latter seems likely.
Might go well with: All kinds of cheese, for all kinds of reasons.
*Previous generations told of walking to school in the snow; lying on my dorm bed and looking almost straight up at the TV on top of the wardrobe—the only way I could get Animaniacs to come in clearly—somehow doesn’t have the same ring of hardship, but will definitely hurt your neck.