Picks and Pans Review: Picket Fences

updated 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Fridays, 10 P.M. ET)

B-

This flamboyant drama from David E. Kelley, longtime L.A. Law producer-writer, is a skewed, often caustic and surprisingly eventful look at life in a small Wisconsin town called Rome. This is no sleepy burg. The first two installments have dealt with suicide, prostitution, underage pornography and a serial killer.

Tom Skerritt plays Rome's sheriff, and Kathy Baker is his spouse, the town doctor. Holly Marie Combs, Justin Shenkarow and Adam Wylie play their blended brood.

The show runs on the same alternating current of pathos and comedy as L.A. Law, but the drama is more ponderous and the humor a good deal more forced. (The sheriff's dense deputy, played by Costas Mandylor, asks of his infatuation for an older woman, "Does this mean a guy's got an esophagus complex?")

Despite the program's artificially, it is atmospheric and flashy. And Picket Fences is going to need every bit of its cheeky insolence to stand apart in a very competitive time slot against 20/20 and I'll Fly Away.

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