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My current favorite TV show is "The Practice" created by David Kelley. But
another talented person from the Steven Bochco School of Great TV is Thomas
Carter who created this pre-cursor to "The Practice." "Equal Justice" told
the intertwining stories of lawyers in the District Attorney's office of an
unnamed (but highly resembling Philadelphia) NorthEastern US City. It
boasted wonderful, gritty writing mixed with just the right amount of humor
and pathos. And was beautifully acted by a cast that included Sarah Jessica
Parker, Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Barry Miller (Fame [the
movie]) and Joe Morton, a gifted character actor who has been in numerous TV
and movie projects.
Every now and then you can catch the pilot TV movie re-run on local TV. If you happen to see it listed on your local guide, I encourage you to check it out. Unfortunately, it did not get the following it deserved and was cancelled after one season, and that's really too bad. It was one of those shows that everybody says there should be more of on television, yet does not catch the viewers attention.
I remember watching this show when it first aired and hoping it would
stay on the air for a while. But despite having an impressive cast and
great dramatic story lines, it only lasted about a season and a half.
Unlike many quality shows that get canceled too soon and develop a cult
following, I can tell by the lack of posts and comments that this show
has largely been forgotten.
The biggest problem was that many people including critics unfairly dismissed it as nothing more than an "LA Law" ripoff. In my opinion, the only similarities were that both were legal dramas and had ensemble casts. "LA Law" had humorous elements and focused a lot on quirky or glamorous cases while "Equal Justice" was more serious and focused on tough topics like racism and gang violence. Another thing going against it was that back in the early 90s, series television was overloaded with courtroom dramas. With "L.A. Law","Matlock", "Civil Wars", and "Law & Order", to name a few, all on the air, I don't think that viewers really could stomach another television courtroom.
Unfortunately, with the lack of quality programs on television today, a show like this would be a welcome addition especially on a network like ABC. You can check out a few episodes that are available on Hulu.com (hopefully they will add more in the future). Take notice of the great cast which includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Joe Morton, Jane Kaczmarek and a Christian Bale lookalike named Cotter Smith.
Thank goodness for advancing video technology. Because of numerous
video streaming websites, it is possible to see almost any beloved (and
not-so-beloved) television program from any era.
A previous IMDb user mentioned the critically acclaimed but shamefully short-lived legal drama "Equal Justice" (1990-91) is airing on a website called Fancast.com. I just finished watching two of the four episodes that have been posted.
As with any program airing more than a decade ago, it is interesting to see people like Jane Kaczmarek and Sarah Jessica Parker before their major long-run successes with "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Sex and the City," respectively. In addition, the show reminds me how great veteran actor Joe Morton is whenever he appears on screen.
I'm not certain if this specific achievement was unprecedented, but co-creator Thomas Carter, who acted in another "Brilliant but Cancelled" show "The White Shadow", won back-to-back Emmys for directing. It's a shame that even two straight Emmy wins in major categories could not save this show.
Again, thank goodness for video technology.
Update July 22, 2009:
On re-watching all 13 episodes from season 1, I'm sure horny, sleazy, cigar-smoking ADA Briggs (Barry Miller) would have been fired and sued by Julia Janovich (Debrah Farentino) for harassment if the scenes were set in 2009. Those scenes from 1990 don't play very well in 2009.
Despite that flaw and some weak subplots, each episode had at least 1-2 compelling story lines. And what made the stronger stories compelling are that the conclusions are not always cleanly resolved. If I were to choose one episode to watch, "Promises to Keep," which won Thomas Carter an Emmy for best direction in a drama series and gave Joe Morton, whose character is affected by a murder, an award-worthy performance, was the show's strongest episode.
Update 2/19/2014: Every episode is posted on Hulu.com via IMDb.com's video section.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Equal Justice' was a great series that focused on the professional &
personal lives of a group of attorneys in the Pittsburgh D.A.'s office.
It included George DiCenzo (who is well suited to playing lawyers) as
D.A. Arnold Bach, Cotter Smith as A.D.A. Gene Rogan (who ran against
him), Kathleen Lloyd (Magnum, P.I.) as Rogan's wife Jessie, Jane
Kazcmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) as Linda Bauer (chief of the sex
crimes unit), Debrah Farentino as Julie Janovich, Joe Morton
(Terminator 2, Speed) as Mike James, and a young Sarah Jessica Parker
(Sex and the City) as Jo Ann Harris. It also starred Jon Tenney as a
defence lawyer, James Wilder, and Barry Miller as an obnoxious A.D.A.
The show focused on themes prevalent in real life today; gang violence, drug-dealing, racism & sexism. It also showed them in a way that made them tangible & realistic to the audience. In addition to the courtroom & legal offices, it also depicted the personal lives of most of the characters, especially Chris (James Wilder) and his romance with a female police officer, Gene & Jessie Rogan's marriage, and Linda's & Jo Ann's home lives. Barry Miller plays an obnoxious attorney whose antics towards Julie (Farentino) could be considered sexual harassment today; they even could have been then.
Sadly, this great series was cancelled after only 2 seasons despite a fine cast and great stories in the episodes. Part of the problem likely was that the show was competing with 'L.A. Law', the relatively new 'Law & Order', and 'Matlock', the latter of which was far inferior to Equal Justice.
While there are video streaming sites carrying it, these are not available to anyone outside the United States. This series deserves a DVD release. It only lasted 2 seasons so it should be possible to release the complete series on DVD.
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