The Rifleman was scheduled for a sixth season in 1963 when Chuck Connors said he felt that five years in one series was enough. He was considered a hot property at the time due to its success. "Eager for a change," he wanted to break out of the western mold. Connors signed a lucrative seven-year deal with Universal/Revue Studios that gave him profit participation and allowed him to do at least one feature film a year. "Arrest & Trial" was the first project he committed to under his new contract. Originally slated to play Sgt. Anderson, the Ben Gazzara part, Connors lobbied for and received the part of John Egan, a slick, top-flight criminal defense attorney. Gazzara, on the other hand, had a number of impressive Broadway plays and Hollywood films to his credit but had resisted doing a TV series because, in those days, it could damage an actor's chances to appear on the big screen. However, Gazzara said that Broadway hadn't made him rich and the film offers were not exactly rolling in. So, he signed for "Arrest & Trial" for the financial security and exposure. Both actors were reportedly paid $7,500 a week and Gazzara, like Connors, enjoyed profit participation. See more »
Created by Earl Bellamy, "Arrest and Trial" was an early attempt to meld, a la "Law and Order", the processes of apprehending criminals, then following the legal system as the cases would be resolved. As 'cop' shows and 'lawyer' shows were among television's most popular genres at the time, ABC and Universal thought the program would be a major hit, and provided first-class talent both in front of, and behind the camera.
The 'Arrest' phase starred 33-year old Ben Gazzara, a highly respected actor who had made his mark on Broadway in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof", and in film, in ANATOMY OF A MURDER. Possessing a quick, analytical mind, and a wry sense of humor, Gazzara's 'Nick Anderson' would quickly cut through alibis, and make arrests, aided by fellow detectives Roger Perry ("Harrigan and Son") and Noah Keen ("The Crimebusters").
The 'Trial' phase returned TV's "Rifleman", Chuck Connors, to the small screen, as John Egan, an intimidating yet sensitive attorney, and featured veteran actors John Larch (WRITTEN ON THE WIND) and John Kerr (SOUTH PACIFIC) as D.A.s representing the State.
While not as intellectual as "The Defenders", "Arrest and Trial" was unique as either side could win or lose a case, as opposed to Perry Mason's nearly flawless record. This was heady stuff for the early sixties!
Unfortunately, being on television's 'Number 3' network did the series in, as ABC had a much harder time attracting viewers than CBS and NBC, particularly when the program was promoted as 'quality'.
It would take 30 years before "Law and Order" could make the formula work!
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