|Index||10 reviews in total|
Barry Newman brought a Jewish profile to a Boston Italian lawyer and pulled it off perfectly. Great pathos on Mr. Newman's part, especially once a week when he would sneer up his lips on one side of his face and say, in a long drawn out drawl,...'yyeaahhh', "Pete" (his P.I., the Underrated Albert Salmi... or "Maggie" if he was talking to his wife)..this kid's innocent...we'll prove it." And his perfect presentation at the end of each episode..."Your Honor, I would like to offer yet ANOTHER version of the events of that night...) It was a great show which, just like "Harry O" in the same time frame, was lost in the mass of more popular Crime Dramas and prematurely cancelled.
I think the best lessons "Petrocelli" teaches us are that 1) things aren't always as they seem, and 2) there's a good reason to presume a person innocent until proven guilty - because he just might be innocent, after all. This is a cast that worked very well together, and the writing, too, was excellent. I liked the fact that we would see the crime being committed from different perspectives. I don't know if "Petrocelli" was the first show to ever do that, but it sure kept me tuned in every week. It would be wonderful if TV Land would run this series again.
This became a staple diet of my Fresher's year at uni (1997). This show
took over from Quincy in the post neighbours slot on bbc1 and was a
massive hit in my student flat.
I'd advise anyone to give this series a go, it has an awesome charm and Newman is fantastic. As far as I can remember, Pete never managed to get paid and Tony didn't finish his house - although it did progress upwards from the foundations throughout the two series.
They did mess around with the format a bit towards the end, which was a little disappointing and they became increasingly obsessed with kidnappings. Having said that when Tony was stuck in the desert with a criminal and two blokes trying to shoot them it was pretty cool even if it wasn't sticking to the usual format.
"You gottta tell me the whole story"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are several things we can pretty much guarantee will happen in
these murder mysteries. Some may consider me revealing these plot
devices as spoilers, consider yourselves duly warned:
· His client will be found over the body with a smoking gun, bloody knife, or blunt instrument with no-one else possibly involved.
· His client will have 'grade A' motivation to commit the crime and there will be overwhelming evidence and the number of eyewitnesses will usually run into double figures.
· About 2.5 seconds after taking the case Lt. John Ponce will waddle up to him and produce a piece of 24 carat gold surprise evidence apparently sealing Petrocelli's clients fate. He will then gloatingly present in distorted flashback his 'version' of the murder, invariably condemning the client as surely as if they were John Wilkes Booth.
· Petrocelli's client will at some point lie to him about something so crucial that even Petrocelli should start to doubt his or hers innocence, which of course he never does - well not for long anyway.
· Petrocelli will lay three bricks of that adobe house he's building every episode.
· In spite of this the house remains about 10% built.
· As the Police will have wrapped up the case in the first 15-20 seconds and headed off for doughnuts and coffee, Petrocelli is obliged to perform the only investigation. As he does so each witness via a series of flashbacks (Busiest second unit crew in the business!) will slowly turn the States' 'open and shut case' away from the certainty we had at the beginning, to grave doubt. At the same time, a more credible guilty party will emerge, and be fully aware of Petrocelli's interest.
· Because of this, his beaten up old camper truck will be forced off the road by the guilty party, or their henchmen at least once in every episode, and sustain heavy damage.
· For variety Petrocelli or his wife might be driving, but invariably however heavy the wreck the thing turns up the next episode looking tired, but remarkably undamaged. They too survive, generally without a scratch.
· In spite of knowing they're in the frame, and that their attempted assassination or intimidation of Petrocelli has failed, the bad guys always, but always manage to be in the courtroom when he convinces the court of his clients innocence unravels the case and neatly exposes them.
I know all this sounds formulaic and repetitive, and it was. In spite of that the main players - particularly Newman who was excellent - all managed to bring something to the table and I enjoyed this in the seventies. Now too as I find myself watching this on the satellite channels who bang it out every day on Granada Plus in the UK. Petrocelli was superior to MacMillan and wife and Hart to Hart, but lacked the obvious glamour of both. Perhaps that's why it lasted only a couple of seasons. Pity, I liked it, and with a few more episodes, he might just have moved in to that house of his!
Trvia note: The producer, Leonard Katzman would go on to bigger things with 'Dallas' taking Susan Howard with him. There's a Star Trek connection here too with Susan Howard who was the only female Klingon in the original series (presumably) introduced by Edward Milkis, co-producer of both Trek and Petrocelli. Howard's part in the 1970 movie/pilot (albeit under a different character's name) was taken by Diana Muldhar, another trek legend.
Spun-off from the movie "The Lawyer" (qv), "Petrocelli" is a great, one hour courtroom drama starring Barry Newman as the displaced New York Lawyer in the desert, Tony Petrocelli. In the late 1990s there was something of a revival in its popularity in the UK, when the BBC began screening it daily in their early afternoon (2pm) slot. It was certainly more entertaining than the show it replaced, "Quincy MD", although perhaps it did not scale the heights reached by the champion of that particular timeslot, "Columbo". "Petrocelli" became the all time favourite tv show of my University friend and housemate Neil, who would often miss lectures to catch the daily afternoon dose of legal drama. I wouldn't go that far, but I'd still say it's great entertainment. When compared to some of the lame legal dramas out there today ("The Practice", anyone?) the writing here is positively superb.
I was in high school when this show was new, and I got interested only
when it was already in its final of 2 seasons. I remember how they
would dramatize several differing accounts of what had taken place, but
I always thought the trial/hearing was too easily resolved when Tony P.
gave his version. And it wasn't even in the 'final summation' stage. He
just said something like, "I'm going to share with the court the only
way this crime could have happened..." and the case would be dismissed.
That's just too simplistic, and it's hard to believe any judge would
let him do that-- and the prosecutor does not even object.
There were some running gags and sub themes that helped make the show interesting. Unlike Perry Mason, we see quite a bit of Petrocelli's after-hours. I don't even remember if it was explained why he lived where he did, so I assume he just wanted to be away from the big city, have land and build a house of his own; which he and Maggie did, though not apparently with much speed. If they had gotten more done on that house I wonder if that would have made any difference in the show's popularity. Maggie (Susan Howard) was his secretary/bookkeeper, as well as his wife, and she managed to get into jeopardy as much as Tony and Pete (his easy-going, less scrupulous cowboy investigator) did. And he liked root beer, was sensitive about his name being mispronounced as PETroSELLee instead of PETroCHELLee, correcting anybody who did that, or else deliberately mispronouncing THEIR name. And he often alluded to his Italian heritage and being brought up poor; which often compelled him to sympathize with poorer clients. The town where he kept his office was San Remo, another Italian reference. In one episode he told Maggie that his mother could prepare meatballs in 10 minutes, implying that she should be able to do that. Then she brought his lunch in a bag, he took it out and there was a can of meatballs and a note, "Here's your 10-minute meatballs." Not a belly-laugh, but amusing if you know the characters.
But Barry Newman and Susan Howard were very good actors. I wish the series had lasted 5 years, so it would have been syndicated in more markets and for longer. I would probably have every available episode on tape or disk it that had been the case.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Petrocelli is a fine US legal drama, and it's a shame it ran for only
two seasons. If Saved by the Bell can run for 20 seasons, then there's
no justice really in the TV world.
Barry Newman and his on screen wife Susan Howard displayed great chemistry and I always liked the ending when Petrocelli would give his wife an update on the progress of their house construction.
Maybe one day Petrocelli can be rebooted, because it's an impressive series that deserves another run. It's sort of the antidote to Suits and other flashy legal drama shows that form part of the legal entertainment landscape nowadays.
Of all the imported US cops and lawyers series shown on British TV in
the early 70's, including Kojak, Columbo, Rockford, Cannon, McMillan
and Wife, Banacek, Harry O and McCloud (I can't remember anymore!),
this is the one I liked best. Barry Newman stars as the eponymous title
character, apparently reprising an earlier film role, a smart-suited,
sharp-witted Italian-extraction lawyer building his own home out in the
country along with his ever-supportive wife (Susan Howard), who becomes
the go-to guy for a seemingly never- ending array of
almost-beyond-doubt guilty defendants who he then proceeds to
unerringly got off in the last reel thanks to his Sherlock Holmes-like
deduction skills. In this he was assisted by his loyal, if somewhat
slow assistant, Cowboy Pete.
The shows took on the whodunit format of Columbo, invariably presenting an open and shut case against the plaintiff only for Petrocelli to turn things around with his own reconstruction of the actual events, usually after he's put himself and / or his wife and / or big Pete in harm's way first to get at the truth. That's the good thing about a whodunit, it keeps you guessing and watching to the very end.
Formulaic it may have been, but Newman played the title role with some flair and some flint garnering good support from Howard who was far from the shrinking wife in the background. I remember in particular Newman's habit of saying "No further questions" after he'd roasted a hostile witness on the stand, plus did he ever finish building that house of theirs out in the back of beyond?
Anyway, for me this is another of those vintage shows from my youth that I loved at the time and which I'm pleased to say, dodgy fashion aside, holds up well to watching again today.
I remember one episode where Petrocelli took a parking ticket off of another parked car, then put the ticket on his own car he just parked so he wouldn't get a ticket. I thought it was hilarious because I had been doing the same thing at the college I was going to. I found I could park right next to the building where my engineering class was just by taking the tickets off other cars and putting them under my windshield wiper. It worked every time. I only did this when I was running late and now when I look back (that was in the seventies) I might have caused other people to get two tickets instead of one. But back then the fines for parking tickets were just a dollar. It was cool seeing Petrocelli do the same thing I did. I wonder if he saw me parking one day and then stole my idea.
This series was excellent in all the primary attributes one looks for in a legal drama: the setting was fresh and new, the characters were interesting, the cast was always on the mark, and the writing was both believable and absorbing. I had a major complaint, however, with the most famous aspect of the show. What "Petrocelli" did different from other courtroom dramas was its dramatization of each witness's account of the crime. Unfortunately, this meant it visually presented false accounts--things that *never happened.* I know how rhetoricians, relativists, and post-modernists of every stripe love to debate the non-existence of objective truth, but prime-time television isn't the forum for such questions. It bothered me every time I watched the show, and every time it came up in discussion with others, they (almost to a one) agreed with me.
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|