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Madson (1996– )
Wrongfully imprisoned man betters himself in prison and emerges to right the wrongs of the past
29 September 2010
I first (and last) watched Madson when it aired on ABC in Australia in 1997 or 1998. I watched a lot of UK dramas at that time, and this one blew me away. It is the story of a wife-beater, Madson, whose wife had been killed by another man a decade earlier, but who was convicted of and served 8 years for her manslaughter after the investigating detective gave false evidence against him.

The series starts with the release from prison of Madson, now aged about 50, from prison. While incarcerated he has studied law by correspondence and now has a three-item agenda: to exact revenge for his unjust conviction; to find out who really killed his wife; and to enter practice as a barrister.

Madson quickly finds that those whom he knew before his imprisonment now regard him with contempt, if not hatred. His protestations of innocence are not believed. He also finds that the road to admission to legal practice will be a rockier one for him than for others.

Madson seeks a job as an "outdoor clerk" to a barristers' chambers. He meets a female barrister who is not only prepared to believe his innocence but also helps obtain a job in her chambers for him. This leads Madson into becoming a "fixer", dealing with problems that cannot easily be solved by legal proceedings. His interest in proving his own innocence transforms into a desire to assist others unjustly dealt with by the law.

The show has a dark, gloomy, grittily realistic style. The dialogue is sparse, particularly in the first episodes, but Ian McShane (Madson) does the acting with his face, and to great effect. The viewer is constantly torn between sympathy with Madson and condemnation of him for his admitted violence to his wife. Ultimately, Madson is a flawed character who, through his work helping other victims of injustice, is offered redemption.

On a personal note, when I saw this show over a decade ago, I was a law school dropout. The show's handling of Madson's predicament, and his courage in the face of more adverse circumstances than mine, gave me the impetus I needed to finish law school and gain admission to legal practice myself.
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