Jennifer Armstrong
May 30, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

David E. Kelley’s The Practice will return to ABC this fall sans six ensemble players — including Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle. Could mass exodus be its salvation? A source close to Kelley says it’s all part of the man’s plan to reinvent the seven-year-old series: ”He’s talking about adding major people,” such as Sharon Stone. Kelley, who will return to running the show day to day, has had mixed results in reworking his shows. Witness Ally McBeal’s ups and downs:

September 1997 Ally McBeal debuts. Unisex bathroom + dancing baby = big ratings.

May 1998 McBeal/Practice crossover pulls series-high ratings for Practice.

October 1999 Ally (repackaged half-hour bits of the real McBeal) fails.

2000 Fresh-out-of-jail Robert Downey Jr. reverses falling ratings until he lands back in rehab.

2002 Dame Edna and Jon Bon Jovi guest stints aside, viewers tune out. Cancellation ensues.

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