Man! I really wish this was out on video! Vote for it here
Vote for it here - tvshowsondvd.com/shows/Trials-OBrien/4368
Middle-aged, saddled with alimony, and a gambling habit. This is a lawyer show?
It was a lawyer show, but a far cry from The Defenders or Perry Mason, which were the successful lawyer shows that preceded it. Where there's a market for 1, there's a market for 2 or 3 or 4...but with a twist to distinguish each one. Where Perry Mason was a whodunit, The Defenders gave us a weekly sermon on some hifalutin liberal social issue. But O'Brien? He was just trying to keep the wolf from his door. On CBS. The Tiffany Network.
I was 11 years old when this was on, so my bedtime was no longer 7pm. Now it was 9pm. This was an hour show that aired at 8:30. But I would have been more inclined to watch The Rifleman or Ensign Pulver or Burke's Law or The Man from U.N.C.L.E., anyway. Or The Outer limits, or Space Family Robinson, or Batman.
But this was what Mom and Dad wanted to watch. Mom was a fan of Peter Falk's, and she would always tell us he had a glass eye. Dad, after the war in the late '40s, lived in Greenwich Village studying art at the Art Students League, and he used to hang out in the White horse Tavern tossing the bull with the other young turks, his drinking buddies, of whom Peter Falk was one.
For me, as a boy, it, Trials of O'Brien, was what was on TV. And sometimes I was allowed to stay up and watch.
So, from an 11-year old's perspective...
This show had a really hilarious opening sequence every week, in which the protagonist, a New York City street lawyer who likes hanging out with his cronies (and gambling) is in a floating crap game that gets raided by the police, and you see the cops rushing in, and all the miscreants, of which our lawyer protagonist is one, dispersing and fleeing the authorities. Very funny stuff! Opening sequence. Every week.
Also funny was that this was no Brooks Brothers -wearing, respectable, successful-wealthy attorney like the lawyers on The Defenders and Perry Mason were. This was a street lawyer who was always behind on his alimony payments, and his ex-wife would be pestering him to fork over. So, when he WOULD get a case, he didn't get to hold on to the paycheck for very long.
That's it. That was the character. This was a show about a working-class guy who had passed the bar exam. His main connection to Columbo would be the seedy appearance. But Columbo was a straight arrow family man dedicated public servant. O'Brien is closer to Joe Pesci's character in My Cousin Vinnie, but older, and more inclined to hanging out with his cronies than a girlfriend. But, like Cousin Vinnie, this was a legal mystery show cloaked in comedy. And, like Cousin Vinnie, O'Brien was loaded with New York City atmosphere.
GUEST CAST - ACTOR. Gene Hackman. Frank Langella. Martin Sheen. Alan Alda. Charles Grodin. David Carradine. Robert Blake. Roger Moore. Robert Loggia. Tony Musante. Nehemiah Persoff. Lou Jacobi. Norman Fell. Harold J. Stone. Alejandro Rey. Barnard Hughes. Philip Bosco. Vincent Gardenia. Kenneth Mars. Reni Santoni ("Poppy" on Seinfeld). David Doyle. Dana Elcar. Michael Constantine. Conrad Bain. Thayer David. Simon Oakland. Tony Roberts. Frank Converse. Claude Akins. Theodore Bikel. Brock Peters. Jack Albertson. Will Geer. Pat Hingle. Buddy Hackett. Mischa Auer. Milton Berle. Burgess Meredith.
...to name a few.
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