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[05/20/03 - 12:00 AM]
'Practice' Not Perfect as Six Exit
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) - In one of the biggest cast turnovers in recent memory, six of the current stars of ABC's "The Practice" will not return next season. Original cast members Dylan McDermott, Kelli Williams and Lisa Gay Hamilton will exit the series as will later entries Lara Flynn Boyle, Marla Sokoloff and Chyler Leigh. The move leaves Camryn Manheim, Michael Badalucco, Steve Harris and Jessica Capshaw as the only returning cast members for its eighth season.

The mass exodus is widely believed to be caused by 20th Century Fox's decision to slash its current license fee ($6.5 million per episode) in half in order to secure an 11th hour renewal by ABC. After being moved to Monday nights in January, viewership dropped more than 20% from last season leading many to believe the series was a longshot to return. ABC will move the drama back to its old Sunday, 10:00/9:00c time slot in the fall.

In a statement to the press, creator and executive producer David E. Kelley told reporters, "Due to economic and creative realities, many key people will not be returning, including Dylan." He added, "It hurts, professionally and personally. This is perhaps the finest group of actors and people one could ever hope to work with; I hope for all of them to recur if possible, and if I'm lucky, I'll get to work with them on future projects as well. I'm indebted to each and every one of them."

Only McDermott is expected to make a curtain call next season, as the actor has committed to appear in a four-episode stint. McDermott had been under contract for all of next season however keeping him would require a substantial raise from his current $300,000 per episode salary, something distributor 20th Century Fox couldn't afford with its new license fee.

Several new cast members are expected to be announced in the coming months as Kelley works to rebuild the series.





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