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Words on writing

Favourite quote today, from Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules on writing: No. 10 “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.”

Review: Ally McBeal

In an interview with the New York Times in 1998, David E Kelley explained “I never even in college thought writing was something I intended to do. I guess I probably had characters in my head as a kid but never thought I’d put them into prime time.”  What a loss to the world of entertainment had those characters stayed in his head.

In 1986, Kelley was a young lawyer and he started writing for the ground-breaking series LA Law. His stories exposed the sometimes sleazy world of lawyers and their often-sleazier clients but also gave an important and unprecedented insight into the workings of the law and the courts system.  From LA, Kelley moved eastwards to Boston and created Ally McBeal and The Practice.

With Ally we get seemingly off-the-wall lawsuits designed to show us just what could happen to a legal system where the boundaries of politically-correct compensation-based litigation are pushed further every year.  Frightening – and how much of those ‘unlikely’ cases would be considered run-of-the-mill now?  In tonight’s episode a woman wants compensation for losing her husband after she went to a seminar called “How to Satisfy Your Man” which encouraged women to be completely submissive to their spouse and the poor man apparently couldn’t take it.

As in LA Law, Kelley surrounds those cases with the lives, loves, luxurious offices and hairstyles of the lawyers and their friends.  This is the show that did more for Barry White songs than the old love-walrus could manage – and don’t we all want to see Ally land herself a nice man and perhaps a few extra kilos?  (LA Law offered doughnuts at staff meetings.)  This is a light but often thought-provoking programme – with no operating tables, violence or bad language.  Go Ally.

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“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.”  (Raymond Carver)