Sometimes melodramatic, but intelligent and very well acted early 1960s U.S. TV series, that obviously served as the inspiration
for "Law & Order".
Like "L & O" this is divided into 2 parts; "Arrest" where cop Ben Gazzara tracks down the person seemingly guilty of that
week's crime and "Trial" where Chuck Connors defends them.
Having the 2nd half be from the defense point-of-view, not the prosecutor's makes the show different than "Law and Order",
and arguably more interesting. It makes blatant how much of the legal system exists in shades of grey.
It's not surprising that Ben Gazzara is very, very good as cop Nick Anderson, making him more complex and interesting than
your basic TV detective of the era. What caught me off-guard was that Connors as successful attorney John Egan, just about
matches him. Unlike Gazzara, Connors was never taken that seriously as an actor,. But he shows a lot here as a top notch,
somewhat cynical lawyer. Beyond the two leads, the guest casts were often very strong as well.
It's partly because these were 90 minutes episodes on TV, so each show runs about 75 minutes of screen time, as opposed to the
standard TV drama that runs an hour, which means about 45-60 minutes of actual story. With the extra time, the writers fleshed
out the characters, both regulars and guests, much more fully than on most non-serialized dramas.
So even if there are plot or logic holes (like charging a man with 1st degree murder, instead of a much more logical 2nd degree or
manslaughter, so the trial can be about the issue of "intent" ) it feels more like you're watching a solid, well acted B-film each
episode, instead of an early TV series. And the series has a nice mix of dark edginess and humanism.
Yes, the score can be painfully over-the-top, and some of the resolutions are too neat, but I'd still say this holds up favorably to a
lot of the modern U.S. character cop and/or lawyer shows of today.
Sadly, the quality of the transfers leaves a lot to be desired. I read elsewhere they were transferred from old 16 mm prints, and
they do look it: washed out, full of print damage, missing opening credits. But it's nowhere near fatal to enjoying this
unusually intelligent slice of early TV.