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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Ahead of its time and a glimpse of things to come

Author: (marilynreece) from United States
8 February 2006

This series was way ahead of its time, with a main character who was a divorced, cynical, slightly seedy lawyer, and was very rumpled -- a Columbo prototype. Peter Falk's charm was evident, and David Burns added a vaudeville touch. The plots were clever, although not memorable after forty years. But I thought it was terribly sophisticated at the time, and, yes, I can still hum the theme music. Even the cast was ahead of its time. In its one year, the guest cast featured the up-and-coming Frank Langella, Cloris Leachman, Faye Dunaway, Estelle Parsons, Britt Ekland, David Carradine, Gene Hackman, Martin Sheen, Alan Alda, Charles Grodin, Tony Roberts, and Brock Peters; and it was a veritable who's who of familiar faces like Vincent Gardenia, Murray Hamilton, Will Geer, Tammy Grimes, Norman Fell, Jack Albertson, Philip Bosco, Barnard Hughes, Angela Lansbury, Tony Musante, and Al Freeman Jr., among many others. Even the playwright Marc Connelly! I've never caught any reruns, but I would love to see some episodes again to see if it was as good as I thought it was. Doesn't anyone else remember The Trials of O'Brien?

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

One of the Great Lost Shows

Author: rickhoover from Florida
13 June 2003

I recall nothing else about this wonderful show except that the writing was SO good even as a teenager I could tell it was special. The only actor who registered with me was the superb Peter Falk. Now that I see that Joanna Barnes and Elaine Stritch were regulars it gives me even more desire to see those old shows again. I remember I was a fan of the show from the very first episode and was sorry no one else was noticing it.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Great TV Series

Author: Samuel Johnson (
16 February 2004

It's been a long time ago, but I know this was a critical success. When it was canceled, it caused a "save this show" letter-writing campaign, to no avail. It was about a rather deadbeat, but smart lawyer, fending off bill collectors and while taking on even more deadbeat clients. Falk did his usual great job and I think some of this character spilled over to Columbo. I would love to see if any of the 13 was it? episodes still exist. I would buy them all!

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Great TV series

Author: Gary Lee from Canberra, Australia
25 November 2004

I remember liking "The Trials of O'Brien" a lot. It wasn't like any other cop show or lawyer show of that time... an unusual mix of the comically absurd and serious drama. Unlike Perry Mason who always stayed within the law (even when it appeared that he hadn't for most of the episode), O'Brien was known to have "bent the truth a little" to make sure his client got a "fair go".

The 90 min (?) O'Brien TV movie, "Too Many Thieves", sometimes appears on the Showtime channel (in America). This movie is an edited version of the two part story "the Greatest Game"...but it really isn't typical of the rest of the the Ex-Mrs O'Brien makes only a very brief appearance in it and I can't remember seeing "the Great MacGonigal" at all. Instead the movie is about a jewel heist and O'Brien trying to stop the baddies killing the heroine (Britt Eklund).

Like other fans, I hope the other episodes in this short-lived series will some day be shown again on TV.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Wow! This one really goes back!

Author: EW-3 from United States
23 March 2004

I have little detailed recollection of this show - I was only 8 or 9 when it aired - but I remember liking it a lot. I remember one episode that opened with O'Brien having a casket/corpse brought into a courtroom (cannot recall why), much to the annoyance of the judge. It must have been a well-written series, as that would explain why I liked it so much. And Falk, of course, was great. He HAD to have borrowed from this to create the "Columbo" character. I also very much recall the jazzy opening theme! Pity we don't see shows like this aired on TV Land or some other cable venue. Why not?

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Great Show, Finished last

Author: Joe Sanchez from Vero Beach, Fl
22 January 2003

Peter Falk portrayed a maverick defense attorney with great zest. Elaine Stritch was his secretary, Joanna Barnes his ex wife with whom he was on very good terms, and the scene stealer was David Burns as the Great Mc Gonigle ( name borrowed from a WC Fields flick ). I can't recall any specific episodes except the show was set in New York City, the script ahead of its time, the acting superior, the stories always believable and interesting, and the theme music was outstanding. Burns/Mc Gonigle was Falk/O'Brien's leg man. He wore an old overcoat and seemed to be chained to bulging leather briefcase, the old fashioned type with the metal three position latch across the top. O'Brien would need some piece of information and invariable Mc Gonigle would reach into some deep recess of his bag and whip out the perfect document. I remember Falk/O'Brien one time remarking as if in wonder, "Don't ever lose that bag." That year Trials of O Brien finished dead last in the Prime time Nielson ratings ( something like 67th out of 67 shows). But to me it was one of the best things ever on TV, which is probably why I have watched perhaps two weekly series of any kind since ( the other being The Wonder Years).

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A great TV Series

Author: ckaikini from United Kingdom
4 December 2006

I enjoyed this Series very much back in the Sixties and used to stay up late just to watch it. Peter Falk has always been one of my favourite actors and was excellent in this series and I enjoyed the comedy in it - especially the frequent references to "the Great McGonagle". I always thought and hoped it would achieve a higher profile and was very disappointed when it just "disappeared" from the TV schedules and I've never seen it since. However, Peter Falk went on to achieve more success with "Columbo". I also enjoyed the performance of Joanna Cassidy, who I think was the actress who played the former wife of Peter Falk's character in "Trials". There was good chemistry between them. I would love to watch it again but don't know where to look for it!

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Anyone out there actually seen this show??

Author: ( from USA
21 August 2002

Any show that starred Peter Falk and Elaine Stritch can't be all that bad! I've heard the theme music on a old Ray Martin LP from the mid 60's and the music sounds great. If anyone remembers this show, please share your memories about the show! I'm very suprised that nobody has written about it considering the enduring popularity of it's stars.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Sketchy memories at best

Author: asmo-4 from Vancouver Canada
22 August 2004

Although I remember thoroughly enjoying the show at age 15-16, I was aware that it was more adult than most TV fare. I seem to remember only individual incidents rather than plot lines. For example, O'Brien seemed to be having an affair with his ex-wife and them being in a panic when he has lost the key to his apartment and she picks the lock with a hairpin. Always having been a Peter Falk fan I would watch anything he was in, and realized early in life that he was somewhat unconventional. Another memory of the show is of O'Brien driving around in his old convertible with a briefcase of important papers that he has just thrown on the back seat. Would love to see some of the episodes as an adult.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Peter Falk gives one of the 1960's great series performances

Author: Cheyenne-Bodie
28 October 2006

Peter Falk won an Emmy for "The Price of Tomatoes", an episode of "The Dick Powell Show" written by Richard Alan Simmons. Inger Stevens, Falk's co-star, was also nominated for an Emmy. In reference to Simmons, Falk said "the man is a mountain." Falk and Simmons continued their partnership with "Trials of O'Brien", and Simmons proved Falk was right.

Falk was superb in the role of Daniel J. O'Brien, a disheveled, odd-ball, humorous attorney, who happened to be very effective. The hour-long series was a comedy/drama/murder mystery. There was no trenchant analysis of social issues as in "The Defenders". Indeed, minimal time was spent in court. The series attempted to capture the sparkle of old movies like "The Thin Man". At the end of most episodes, Falk would gather all the suspects and determine the killer. The consistently high quality of the writing was amazing.

This show was all Falk, but the supporting regulars were also extraordinary. Joanna Barnes was his ex-wife, Ilka Chase was his ex-mother-in-law, David Burns was his investigator, and Elaine Stritch was his secretary. Sexy, sophisticated, smart Joanna Barnes was at her very best here, but she wasn't used anywhere near enough. She could have been a break-out star if she had been given more screen time.

The show was set in and filmed in New York, which almost seemed to be a requirement for quality drama series in the 60's. Many of the guest stars had stunning work ahead of them: Alan Alda, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Roger Moore, Robert Blake, Angela Lansbury, David Carradine, Martin Sheen, Frank Langella and Jessica Walter, to name a few.

"O'Brien" was on Saturday nights after Perry Mason, another detective-lawyer. The line producer was Jon Epstein ("Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law", "Rich Man, Poor Man").

Richard Alan Simmons later produced a season of the 1970's Columbo, and Jon Epstein produced some Columbo episodes in the early 1990's shortly before his death. A Columbo episode is dedicated to Epstein's memory.

TV Guide critic Cleveland Amory said the best series performance of 1965-66 was given by Patrick McGoohan ("Secret Agent"), but Amory gave honorable mention to Ben Gazzara ("Run For Your Life") and Peter Falk ("Trials of O'Brien"). None of those three actors was nominated for an Emmy that season. Amory said some of the later episodes of "O'Brien" were truly magnificent.

"Trials of O'Brien" may have been a business failure, but Peter Falk and executive producer Richard Alan Simmons achieved greatness with this show.

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