There is no question that we love TV shows that tell stories about crime, courts and lawyers. In every decade over the past fifty years, shows that featured lawyers have rated high in the Nielsen rankings.
Here’s a few of my old favorites:
1. PERRY MASON
From 1957 to 1966 Perry Mason represented the ideals of the consummate barrister. He was whip smart, but never cocky, calm and deliberate, kind and gracious and ever the perfect gentleman. He also never lost a case because when it came down to the wire, a witness walked into the court room who revealed a spectacular truth that completely exonerated his client and often identified the real criminal. Even today, those startling court scenes as portrayed in the show are called “Perry Mason moments” and of course, they never happen in real life.
2. RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY
This show ran on the BBC from 1978 to 1992. Rumpole was an aging barrister who took almost every case that came his way, very often representing ne’er-do -wells who were as guilty as sin. His motto was that every person deserved a defence; he rarely plead a client guilty and he never submitted to a plea deal.
Rumpole referred to himself as “an old Bailey hack” referring to the venerable criminal court in London England. While his family tried to persuade him that at his age he should move on to more dignified work such as a Queen’s Counsel or Circuit Judge, Rumpole referred to those people as “Queer Customers” and “Circus Judges”.
Rumpole was a crusty barrister with a fondness for cigars and more often than not arrived in court with cigar ash trailing down his court gown with his barrister’s wig askew.
A charming part of the story line was Rumpole’s wife who was a lot smarter than he was. Rumpole referred to her as “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. A classic British television series written by John Mortimer, an English lawyer.
3. THE DEFENDERS
This American courtroom drama aired between 1961 and 1965. Actors E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed played a father and son defence team. Unlike Perry Mason and Rumpole, these lawyers did not win all their cases as they tackled social issues such as neo-Nazi’s, conscientious objectors, pornography, atheism, mercy killing, the Hollywood Black List, and capital punishment, to name a few.
A 1962 episode centered on The Defenders defence of an abortionist. Three of the show’s premier sponsors refused to run their commercials during this episode. The show won thirteen Emmy Awards including three in a row for “Outstanding Drama Series”.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang