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|Index||12 reviews in total|
Can this series really have been as inspiring as I thought it was at the time? If so, it must have had enormous effect on American society.
Certainly it dealt more courageously than any other show of the period with issues such as civil rights, religious and political oppression, faults in existing laws on divorce, narcotics and legal sanity, and the ethical problems of priests, doctors and lawyers.
And, as I remember, although E.G.Marshall (as Lawrence Preston) demanded our sympathy for his stand on these issues, there was always argument and challenge from Robert Reed (as his son, Kenneth), and humor prevented solemnity or sentimentality.
Actors such as Sylvia Sidney, Sam Wanamaker, Ruth Roman, Akim Tamiroff, Teresa Wright, and Jack Klugman played leading roles, but minor characters also came across as people of dignity and importance.
What impressed me most perhaps was Lawrence Preston's respect for THE LAW.
Won't some kind person allow us to see it again?
"The Defenders" realistically portrayed issues of the day, often in a
court room setting. They produced the show in New York City with, if
memory serves, location exteriors. The court room scenes were well
written and directed, usually the high point of each program.
At its best, the acting could be very good indeed. E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed worked well together as father and son attorneys. Their roles in this series provided them with career high points. The guest stars added further strength to the show.
As a teenager then, I thought it was a cutting edge show. It would probably be dated if viewed today, since it was filmed mostly in black and white (though the last season might have been color), and production values were different then. One of the best shows of its era, it should be released on DVD, but probably won't be because of onerous residuals obligations.
Even though it only ran between 1961-1965 on CBS,this was one of those shows that broke ever taboo with subjects that were too rowdy for television back then. This show was the forefront other successful courtroom shows to follow,even though it came out at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the overall turbulance of the Vietnam War. Based on a Studio One play of the same title(which starred Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner) its premise was similiar to that of "Perry Mason",but with amazing results. E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed(long before he became one of the "Brady Bunch") were terrific as the father and son defense team who tackle issues head on in the courtroom and outside the premise as well. Great show!!!
There are heavy residuals on this great show, which I sure would like see again. Currently I have 32 stories, 29 of which are very good. If anyone has any episodes, please let met know. The ones I have are 30 listed "caseyguy", the Locked Room, and The Nonviolent. Of the remaining 100, I would like all but the the 2 part episode The 600 Year Old Gangm and Poltergest. Both of these were bad. Almost all of the old shows on video stores or cable were not worth watching even once. Somebody out there has the brainpower and pull to make them available to those willing to pay the price. This show caused you to think about conditions in your country. E.G. Marshall as excellent as were the frequent guest stars such as Frank Overton, Viveca Lindfors, Judson Laire, Jack Klugman, Harold Stone, Richard Kiley, Gene Hackmen, Edward Binns, Sylvia Sidney, Robert Webber, Malcom Atterberry, and others. This was the most socially conscious show ever.
My elder brother (who is now a Metropolitan Trial Court judge) and I
used to watch this every week back in the early '60s. I don't remember
much of the episodes except I know I enjoyed most of them. It has a
very inspiring trumpet led theme music as the camera took a long bird's
eye view panning shot of a majestic courthouse with Greco-Roman
I do remember Atty. Preston, the elder, (E.G. Marshall) often arguing on the basis of principles over strict or often shystery interpretation of the law used by his court opponents.
One episode I distinctly remember is the one that involves a leader of an American neo-Nazi organization who organized a counter-demonstration to a Jewish rally or parade. Dressed in what looked like approximations of Sturmabteilung ("shock troops" or SA)uniforms, they peacefully stood on the sidewalks and shouted "Hitler had the right idea" repeatedly. They got arrested and charged with something in court. The Preston father and son lawyer team had the rather unpleasant but legally correct task of defending the neo-Nazi leader on the grounds of freedom of speech.
This landmark TV series (1961-65) was years ahead of its time. It
correlated many contemporary stories from the headlines and did so with
uncompromising depth. The protagonist attorneys (The late E.G.
Marshall, Robert Reed) lost nearly as many cases as they won, because
the series focused on controversial social issues where there were no
easy answers or solutions. This was reflected in the outcome of some
episodes. The issues included abortion; euthanasia; capital punishment;
censorship; blacklisting; criminal insanity; Nazis; cannibalism; and a
variation of what is currently called "road rage." The first listed,
"The Benefactor," was a compelling episode about abortion, years before
it was legal. The last, "Death On Wheels," involved an enraged motorist
who accidentally killed a pedestrian after a heated argument with his
wife. A shocking case was the one about cannibalism. Two men were
accused of murdering and literally devouring another man when they were
all cast adrift in a lifeboat in the ocean. An unusual episode, "Mind
Over Murder" involved a clairvoyant accused of murder based on ESP. The
defendant's background was loosely parallel to the late psychic, Peter
The Defenders theme song coupled with an aerial view of the courthouses in Foley Square, New York City, were presented with the onset of each episode. Immediately before the theme, the viewer saw the actual crime being committed when possible, which was graphically realistic and sometimes unnerving. The lawyers then often interviewed their clients in a simulated version of "The Tombs," an archaic NYC jail. The late E.G. Marshall portrayed the lead attorney, Lawrence Preston, with flawless acting that was in a class by itself. Indeed, he was so convincing that it was difficult for me to think of him thereafter as anyone else. The style and integrity he displayed in The Defenders inspired my interest in the law and was one of the initial reasons I became a lawyer.
From the early Sixties came this show which one viewer described as
that era's Law and Order. It wasn't that, it couldn't be that because
the Prestons were defense attorneys. Still the cases raised some of the
legal issues that Law and Order raises. The Defenders whatever else it
was, was not a who done it show like Perry Mason.
E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed played the father and son law firm of Preston&Preston. E.G. as Lawrence Preston was a widower and Reed was his son Kenneth. What I remember was these two guys apparently had no personal life at all. I can't remember a single episode where these two weren't on the clock defending all kinds of clients.
But lawyers and law students loved this show as it took on some really important issues. The episode that I remember best was one involving the McNaghten Rule which evolved from an English murder case in which a guy named McNaghten killed Prime Minister Robert Peel's Secretary, thinking it was Peel. The poor demented jerk thought that the government was plotting against him personally. That case set a standard for a successful insanity defense, that someone like McNaghten had to be unaware of the difference between right and wrong when he committed the homicide.
I still remember Marshall saying that in behalf of his client the McNaghten Rule should be repealed. He certainly gave it one good effort in trying to repeal about a 120 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence. The rule's been modified, but never repealed. But that was typical of the stuff the Prestons did. No arraignments in night court for this duo.
The scripts though were intelligently written even if you didn't agree with what the Prestons were doing. Proof that entertainment can be intelligent and informative, the show ran for four years.
I wish that TV Land would pick up this series.
I have not seen an episode since the mid-60s (YIKES, how long is that?), but I remember many of them. In one, these father/son are assigned the defense of a young Nazi. The man was defacing a synagogue when he was interrupted by the rabbi, who accidentally fell and hit his head and died. The man was caught and charged with murder, since it was assumed that he had killed the rabbi. There turned out to be a witness who could clear the man. When the Defenders finally tracked him down, he told them the most horrific story of his arrest and transfer to a concentration camp - and for that reason he would not testify for "one of THEM." Their response was, "Do you want us to be like them, ignoring the truth?" And that was how the episode ended - would the witness testify or not? How childish modern TV "drama" seems in comparison...
This was an amazing show - tackling issues headfirst that other shows wouldn't even mention. E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed were powerful as a father-son defense team, and the stories were all very involving and satisfying.
Of the 132 stories, 33 are now available. Couldn't we pool our resources to get this show on video DVD. There are high residuals for this show buy if enough people want it, they will pay the money. Most of the TV programs on DVD now were not worth watching even once. One exception is Death Valleys Days in B/W. Let's bug CBS for the remaining 99 episodes of the Defenders. All but three of them were very good. The three bad ones are a two parter The 600 Year Old Gang and Poltergeist. All of the rest were quality stories that would hold up well today. Some of the guest stars included Ruth Roman, Frank Overton, Fritz Weaver, and Robert Redford. Let's ban together and find out who has the rights to the Defenders.
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