David E. Kelley ’79 speaks at the Lewis Center in 2010. (M. Teresa Simao/Courtesy Lewis Center for the Arts)
Writer and producer David E. Kelley ’79 has left his mark on a string of influential television shows, from L.A. Law, where he got his start as writer, to his own hour-long drama creations, including Picket Fences, The Practice,Ally McBeal, and Boston Legal, and more recently, the half-hour Robin Williams comedy series The Crazy Ones. On Tuesday night, he added another line to his impressive credits: “inductee, Television Hall of Fame.”
Kelley was part of a six-member hall-of-fame class that included Jay Leno, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Fox Broadcasting founder Rupert Murdoch. Frequent collaborator Bill D’Elia presented Kelley for induction. The Television Hall of Fame is run by the Television Academy, which also oversees the Emmys.
This week’s honor is just the latest in an award-winning career. Kelley majored in politics at Princeton and showed a flair for storytelling — his senior thesis on the Bill of Rights was written in the form of a play, with each character representing an amendment. He initially pursued a law career, but left that path for Hollywood, using his legal background to inspire plot lines.
In college, Kelley also played varsity hockey, so he’s familiar with the sports practice of reserving hall-of-fame induction for retired players. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he was asked what the Television Hall of Fame honor meant to him. “Well, I’m hoping it doesn’t mean, ‘OK, time to go away,’” he joked. “No, it’s quite thrilling. The fact that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see my name listed with so many people I admire? That’s kind of cool.”