David E. Kelley sells his soul to reality TV -- The creator of hit shows like ''The Practice'' and ''Ally McBeal, who has slammed reality TV in the past, talks about his NBC unscripted legal series

By Lynette Rice
July 09, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Look who’s suddenly getting real: David E. Kelley — an outspoken critic of reality shows — has partnered with the makers of ”Blind Date” (of all things) to make an unscripted legal series for NBC next season. He’s assembling a team of attorneys to try real civil cases; those who can’t stand up in court will get the ax each week. Before trial begins, we asked the creator of ”The Practice” and ABC’s upcoming ”Fleet Street” to defend his actions.

Why are you doing a reality show?!
I prefer to think of it as a law series using actual cases and practicing attorneys. I try not to use the R-word, however much it may apply. [It will be set] almost exclusively in the office and in the courtroom. We will only access personal lives to the extent that they bear on the cases. I remain as disgusted as ever at the exploitative garbage currently polluting our medium and will try not to pollute it further.

Will you inspire, say, John Wells (”ER”), David Milch (”Deadwood”), and Steven Bochco (”NYPD Blue”) to do their own reality shows?
Messrs. Bochco, Milch, and Wells are three of the finest writers in our business; I admire each of them. Should I inspire them to write less, I should indeed be condemned to television hell, but only for eternity.

Okay, full disclosure: ”The Swan” is totally your guilty pleasure, right?
I watched ”American Idol” the first year and loved it. I haven’t had time to watch since, but I hear I would continue to love it. Haven’t managed to catch up with ”The Swan” yet; my TiVo drew a line. Evidently, even technology has its principles.