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Set in the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin, this David E. Kelley family/legal/medical/cop dramedy won the Emmy for Best Drama twice. After four seasons, it got cancelled for being too weird for its own good.
The main characters are:
- Jimmy Brock - The Sheriff of Rome.
- Jill Brock - Jimmy's wife, the town doctor.
- Kimberly Brock - Jimmy's teenage daughter from a previous marriage.
- Matthew Brock - Jimmy and Jill's son.
- Zachary Brock - Jimmy and Jill's son.
- Kenny Lacos - Deputy, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
- Maxine Stewart - Deputy, Kenny's partner, the more driven of the two.
- Douglas Wambaugh - Town lawyer who represents every defendant in town.
- Judge Henry Bone - Town judge.
- Carter Pike - Medical examiner, conspiracy theorist.
Tropes used in Picket Fences include:
- Alter Kocker: Douglas Wambaugh, an Ashkenazi Jew.
- Amoral Attorney: Subverted. Wambaugh takes any case for a fee, and isn't above using highly dubious tactics to win, but it eventually becomes clear that he's just playing a character.
- Anvilicious: Many examples, but the cow in the manger comes most strongly to mind.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: Sheriff Brock ought to know everything there is to know about keeping guns secure at home, yet Zachary has no trouble retrieving Jimmy's pistol and pantomiming potshots at Matthew's attacker when no one else is around.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant: A comatose car crash victim is found to be pregnant even though she is a virgin. They find out her doctor is a religious fanatic who impregnated her through IVF without her knowledge. When she threatened to tell the police, he tampered with her car's brakes.
- Catch Phrase:
- Wambaugh--"Douglas Wambaugh, for the defense!"
- Judge Bone--"Now, get out!"
- Carter Pike--"Let me exhume the body!"
- Cerebus Syndrome: The show started out as a quirky, light-hearted Slice of Life, then morphed once into a Police Procedural involving the hunt for serial killers, then again into an Anvilicious courtroom drama. There's also how the show took quirky comedy concepts from its first few episodes and have them turn out to have a rather dark Reality Ensues payoff. That amusing Cloudcuckoolander with some of the funniest lines in the show? Turns out he has Alzheimers, which eventually leads to a tragic downward spiral.
- Courtroom Antic: Used very often by Wambaugh. Usually subverted, because Judge Bone always called him on it.
- Dinner and a Show: Whenever they have dinner guests. Wambaugh lampshaded it when urging another guest to accept an invitation: "Strange things happen when they eat."
- Driven to Suicide: A repentant pedophile who moves to town and gets chilly-to-hostile receptions from everyone, including Judge Bone his father.
- Dude, Not Funny: In-universe example. After Wambaugh tells an un-PC joke about Jews and Native Americans (during a funeral eulogy, no less), the local rabbi tries to have him excommunicated.
- Harsher in Hindsight: In "To Forgive is Divine,"the community of an Amish rape victim is sued after the victim refuses to disclose the identity of the rapist in court (because her religion precludes cooperation with the secular court system/the Amish council delcined to press charges). While on the stand, the girl's father tells the court that his community doesn't expect help from the outside world. In response, the plaintiff's attorney asks if they would accept help if the community were under siege by an armed attacker. This was 10 years before the horrific 2006 Amish schooolhouse shooting, when a teacher had to run to a payphone in order to call for help.
- High Turnover Rate: Mayors of Rome have died from spontaneous combustion, being pushed into freezers, and gunshots. Others have gotten thrown into jail or run out of office for making porn.
- Little People Are Surreal: Ginny Weedon - Portrayed by Zelda Rubinstein, who basically plays the same part that she did in |Poltergeist. It never stopped her from complaining about little people stereotypes, though.
- The Mountains of Illinois: In this case, Wisconsin. Palm trees can also be seen occasionally.
- Overprotective Dad: After walking in on Kimberly having sex with her boyfriend, Jimmy has the boyfriend arrested on the spot for statutory rape.
- Patient of the Week: Seen by Jill, who has up-to-date knowledge of every disease and the latest treatments.
- Quirky Town: Rome has this trope in spades.
- Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Kimberly and her best friend kiss during a sleepover, causing Kimberly's parents to panic.
- Rape Is Ok When It Is Female On Male: A male teacher accuses a woman of raping him. The defense is based on the fact that the man climaxed. In the end, the woman is found not guilty.
- Refuge in Audacity: Wambaugh, in his courtroom antics. In one episode, a drunk driver is allowed to drive home with police following her. After she causes a wreck that injures a young man, she calls Wambaugh, who tells her to drink in order to discredit the breathalyzer. When Judge Bone calls him on this, and gives him a very harsh dressing-down, Wambaugh decides to plead the case out for a suspended sentence. He then represents the victim of the wreck in a lawsuit against the town, using the driver's testimony that she was too drunk to drive. Legally, they couldn't do anything to Wambaugh for this, but Judge Bone gets so mad that he throws him in jail for contempt.
- Shock Party
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: The depressed, alcoholic mayor was written out of the plot by having him spontaneously combust in his own house. He already figured his political career was over, apparently making him a literal burnout was the final blow to the character.