In Judging Amy,' Brenneman Rules

Sylvia Rubin, Chronicle Staff Writer

Way before "Sex & the City," there was Amy Brenneman
on "NYPD Blue." The great disrobing, the first in a
network series, came in the show's premiere episode in
1993 when Brenneman, as Officer Janice Licalsi, gave
David Caruso about his only reason to smile.

Six years later, Brenneman, 35, returns to series television
in the role of a rookie juvenile court judge in the hourlong
drama "Judging Amy." The network will roll out the show,
also produced by Brenneman, at 8 p.m. September 19 to
take advantage of the largely female "Touched by an
Angel" Sunday audience. On September 21 "Amy" moves
to its regular time slot of 10 p.m. Tuesdays.

The show is unabashedly a women's program and an
homage to Brenneman's mother, Frederica, a Superior
Court judge in Hartford, Conn.

Brenneman's character, Judge Amy Gray, is recently
separated from her husband and, with her 6-year-old
daughter, moves out of New York to live with her
formidable mother (Tyne Daly) and brother Vincent (Dan
Futterman) back in Hartford. Much of the drama occurs
outside the courtroom in the big country house run by the
judge's mother, a retired social worker with no shortage
of advice on how her daughter should live her life.

Brenneman is the daughter of two lawyers from
Glastonbury, a Hartford suburb. She watched her mother,
an indecisive person at home, turn into a confident
mediator at work. "She was clear and compassionate and
serious at work; it all came out on the bench," Brenneman
says. "She never could make it to my track meets, but at
the same time I was proud of her because I didn't know
anybody else whose mother had as big a job as mine

Brenneman chose the arts over law, enrolling in Harvard
and promptly taking a semester off to live in Nepal, where
she studied sacred Nepalese dance (she is only one of a
few Americans to master the style). During her freshman
year, she formed the Cornerstone Theater Company, a
touring company that still takes classics on the road to
small towns.

Since "NYPD Blue," Brenneman has appeared in many
stage productions and a string of movies, though none of
them made her a star. Last season, she had a romp on
"Frasier" as Kelsey Grammer's intellectual girlfriend, Faye

"One reason I wanted to come back to series TV was to
be able to live a part for longer than you get to in movies
and in the theater," she says. "I'm a very dear friend of
Dennis Franz's (Detective Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD
Blue"), and I see what he's able to create over time."

In "Judging Amy," Brenneman's character is a nervous
wreck her first day on the job. Back home, her daughter
misses Daddy, and Brenneman's mother is the supreme
ruler of the household.

"My character is dealing with neglect and abandonment
issues at work, then she comes home and has to explain
to her little girl why she is being separated from her dad,"
Brenneman says. "My interest with this series is to show
what people with exalted positions are like at home and
as parents."