CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- ABC has pulled the plug on "The Practice" after eight seasons, a source close to the series confirmed today. But "The Practice" universe may live on as the show's closing episodes will set up a potential spin-off of the veteran drama.
The proposed offshoot, which was initially discussed by ABC last week (read the story), would spawn from the events started in the March 21 episode, "War of the Roses," in which James Spader's character is abruptly fired from Young, Frutt & Berluti, files a wrongful termination suit and retains the services of a high-profile law firm headed by power-drunk, legal legend Denny Crane (guest star William Shatner) to go head-to-head with his former employer.
The untitled spin-off would star Spader, Rhona Mitra and possibly Jessica Capshaw and revolve around their experiences as they join Crane's firm. No other details were mentioned. It's also not clear if Shatner, or fellow guest star Vince Colosimo ("Lantana") who also works at said firm, would be involved in the new project.
To date this season, "The Practice" has averaged 9.52 million viewers for its 15 first-run installments, down 16% in year-to-year comparisons. David E. Kelley and Robert Breech are the executive producers of the series, which comes from David E. Kelley Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television.
In addition, ABC issued a press release this afternoon confirming the news:
THE EMMY AWARD-WINNING DRAMA, "THE PRACTICE," WILL END ITS CURRENT RUN ON SUNDAY, MAY 16 AND EVOLVE INTO A NEW LEGAL DRAMA FOR ABC NEXT FALL
On the heels of a creative resurgence which resulted in overwhelming critical acclaim, "The Practice," the multiple Emmy Award-winning drama from renowned writer/producer David E. Kelley, will end its current run on Sunday, May 16, at the end of its eighth season, and then evolve into a new drama set in the high priced, high end world of civil law. The new series will join ABC's schedule next fall, it was announced today by Susan Lyne, president, ABC Entertainment, David E. Kelley, and Gary Newman and Dana Walden, presidents, Twentieth Century Fox Television.
Current plans have several of the characters from "The Practice" going to work for this new firm, which viewers will be introduced to at the end of this season. Additional information on the new series will be announced at a later date.
In commenting on the announcement, Ms. Lyne stated: "David, with the help of a truly extraordinary cast, accomplished the impossible this season; they breathed new life into a show that had been on the air for seven years. Now its time to take this series to the next level by moving it to a bigger, more complex law firm where David can introduce new characters and a broader range of legal and personal stories."
David E. Kelley commented: "This is very gratifying. Last year it seemed that the series was over. Instead, we've been given the opportunity to evolve and go on. We look forward to the future."
"Everyone at the studio has taken enormous pride in our association with 'The Practice' since the series began eight years ago," commented TCFTV president Dana Walden. "It's one of television's finest shows, and proof that when you combine rich, complex characters with extraordinary storytelling, audiences respond, and they respond enthusiastically."
Continued TCFTV president Gary Newman: "David now plans to build on the incredibly strong foundation he created in 'The Practice,' and we know it's going to be every bit as compelling. We're thrilled to be involved in this exciting new series, and we can't wait for viewers to get a look at David's next great franchise."
In addition to multiple Emmy honors, "The Practice" has also earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Series, a Peabody Award, a Viewers for Quality Television Award, an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award and, most recently, the coveted Humanitas Prize in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The series stars Michael Badalucco as Jimmy Berluti, Jessica Capshaw as Jamie Stringer, Steve Harris as Eugene Young, Camryn Manheim as Ellenor Frutt, Rhona Mitra as Tara Wilson and James Spader as Alan Shore.
"The Practice" was created by David E. Kelley. Mr. Kelley and Robert Breech are executive producers. "The Practice" premiered on March 4, 1997, and is produced by David E. Kelley Productions in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television.