‘Defenders’ revamps on tap

Showtime is readying a pair of telefilms based on the 1960s CBS courtroom drama series “The Defenders” that are currently being written by Reginald Rose, now 76, who created the original show and penned 18 of its 134 scripts.

E.G. Marshall has been tapped to reprise the defense attorney role he played in the old series, while Beau Bridges is close to being firmed as his lawyer son. An actress to play Marshall’s granddaughter has yet to be cast.

Paramount Network TV is producing the two projects, which will be shot simultaneously. They are scheduled to go into production in March, with at least one of the two movies likely to debut during third or fourth quarter 1997. If the films prove popular, Showtime reportedly plans to commission several “Defenders” movies each year, similar to the way NBC spun off the “Perry Mason” franchise.

The original “Defenders,” which aired from 1961 to ’65, starred Marshall and Robert Reed as a father-and-son legal defense team. It dealt with such controversial issues for the time as abortion, euthanasia and political blacklisting.

Show sprouted from a Rose teleplay that aired as a two-part episode of the series “Studio One” in February and March of 1957. That starred Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner as the father-son team and Steve McQueen as a young defendant charged with murder.

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