By Richard Huff
Amy Brenneman is feeling a bit
relieved these days. Her CBS drama,
"Judging Amy," is the top-rated new
drama this season, despite
not-so-great critical reviews.
"I feel very excited and relieved,"
Despite her faith in the show,
Brenneman wasn't surprised that
critics weren't bowled over by
"Judging Amy." In fact, she
expected a lukewarm response.
The series, which is based on
Brenneman's mother, follows the
trials and tribulations of a single
parent and Hartford judge. Tyne
Daly ("Cagney & Lacey") plays her
Brenneman figured the mix of a
domestic and courtroom drama with
a bit of humor might not appeal to
critics. She also realized there would
be inevitable comparisons to NBC's
family-friendly drama "Providence,"
which in January opened to terrible
reviews and stellar ratings.
"Good reviews are awesome,"
Brenneman said. "I never expected
this to get anything but mixed."
And like "Providence," "Judging
Amy" appears to have a struck a
chord with viewers. The series has
increased its audience each week,
an unusual feat for a new show.
"It's funny, because of my deeper
commitment to this, I was kind of
sanguine about (the reviews)," she
said. "I didn't freak out. It's just
gratifying that people are digging
these characters. The ratings race
will go on to the day I die."
Brenneman may be best known to
TV fans for her role as beat cop
Janice Licalsi on ABC's "NYPD
Blue." She left the series early in the
show's second season to pursue
big-screen film opportunities. Since
then she has appeared in such films
as "Your Friends and Neighbors,"
"Heat," "Daylight" and the
upcoming "The Suburbans." She
also did a TV movie and starred in a
series pilot that never materialized.
"Judging Amy" marks her full-time
return to television. She's doing so,
not only as a series star, but also as
an executive producer.
"There were definitely moments of
not fun," she said of the gig. "It's
sort of like working on a term paper.
It's always in the back of your mind;
'Are we on track?'
"I found the last week or two,
because it's sort of out in the world,
it's gotten fun again," she added. "I
started feeling fun and excited and
For the most part, Brenneman
spends her day as an actor, though
when she's not in front of the
camera, she's wearing her executive
producer hat and making notes on
upcoming scripts or perhaps
suggesting cuts to an episode.
"I do find it's a very different part of
my brain that works," she said.
"Producing is the bird's-eye view,
the big picture, while acting is purely
Though being a producer is a bit
more work, the job also gives
Brenneman peace of mind.
"It helps cut down on the paranoia
that actors usually feel that things
are going on they don't know
about," she said. "It's about
information; when I don't have
information, I can go into a paranoid,
grouchy place. You can kind of
Having good Nielsen ratings also
helps one breathe easier, sorta. That
said, being a slave to the ratings can
cause problems, too. The first two
weeks, Brenneman said, she
worried about the numbers.
"I haven't done television in a while
and I haven't done it in such an
intimate way," she said. "I thought, I
can either drive myself insane or I
got to figure out how to deal with
this information. I kind of realized,
this is for the number-crunchers to