Civil Wars (1991–1993)
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The popular legal dramatic shows go for high drama: big dollars, big murders, big felonies, unique (bizarre if possible) but uncostumed sub-Batman bad guys (and girls).
On the other hand, "Civil Wars" used the taut, compelling structure of L.A. Law to address issues that could arise in anyone's life and one or more elements in everyone's life. Well, one episode, as I remember it, featured a circus couple that included a midget.
The most gripping episode of many gripping episodes, for me, was the battle for custody of their young mixed-race (black/white) child by two loving parents each feeling he/she was acting in the child's best interest. I have no personal investment in the issue; my children are white.
For me the show was sparked by Mariel Hemingway, with her unusual contrast of dominating height and squeaky little-girl voice that she re-engineered enough to achieve a quite convincing courtroom presence aided by her strong "Papa-esque" facial structure (Jack Palance, anyone?).
The second attractive feature of the program was Hemingway's byplay with legal associates Rosenberg (especially) and Onorati.
The other kind of legal shows don't even tempt me to watch them. Another way to characterize them is as embellished headlines. Civil Wars was simply life described.
This show arrived at the culmination of a 'golden age' of television pioneered by dramadies like 'Thirtysomething', 'Picket-Fences' 'My So-called life' and, of course 'The days and nights of Molly Dodd.' A classic that was pulled a little too soon. (And no, Mariel in 'Central Park West' didn't even come close.)
I still miss Mariel. (Anyone remember the nudie episode?)