A look at memorable legal skeins
Television viewers love their lawyers. Here’s a look at some of the more notable shows that have held court in primetime:ALLY McBEAL
Synopsis: Quirky, sophisticated Fox comedy about a Harvard-trained attorney, her co-workers and their often off-beat experiences.
Cast: Calista Flockhart, Jane Krakowski, Greg Germann, Peter MacNicol
Behind the scenes: David E. Kelley, creator
Years: 1997-present THE DEFENDERS
Synopsis: An experienced attorney and his son, who recently graduated from law school, form a formidable team in the courtroom. Unusual for the time, the series tackled a number of tough issues, including abortion and mercy killing, and, on occasion, they actually lost a case.
Cast: E.G. Marshall, Robert Reed
Behind the scenes: CBS series based on an original story by Reginald Rose; produced by Herbert Brodkin.
Years: 1961-1965 EQUAL JUSTICE
Synopsis: The staff of the Pittsburgh district attorney’s office was the focus of this semi-serialized ABC legal drama.
Cast: George DiCenzo, Cotter Smith, Kathleen Lloyd, Sarah Jessica Parker
Behind the scenes: Thomas Carter, exec producer
Years: 1990-1991 FAMILY LAW
Synopsis: CBS drama about a divorced attorney rebuilding her practice. Described by co-creator Paul Haggis as a “Cagney & Lacey” meets “L.A. Law.”
Cast: Kathleen Quinlan, Julie Warner, Christopher McDonald, Dixie Carter
Behind the scenes: Haggis, Anne Kenney co-creators
Years: 1999-present I’LL FLY AWAY
Synopsis: Critically acclaimed NBC series about race relations in the South during the 1950s, featuring a prosecuting attorney perplexed by the changes going on around him and confronted by troubles at home.
Cast: Sam Waterston, Regina Taylor, Kathryn Harrold
Behind the scenes: Joshua Brand and John Falsey, creators
Years: 1991-1993 JUDD, FOR THE DEFENSE
Synopsis: A criminal attorney modeled after high-profile legal stars F. Lee Bailey and Percy Foreman, Judd traveled the country defending wealthy clients. ABC series dealt with such issues as draft evasion, labor activism and civil rights killings.
Cast: Carl Betz, Stephen Young
Behind the scenes: Paul Monash, exec producer
Years: 1967-1969 L.A. LAW
Synopsis: A high-powered Los Angeles law firm was at the center of this critically acclaimed NBC drama. The show borrowed several stylistic points from Steven Bochco’s “Hill Street Blues.”
Cast: Richard Dysart, Jill Eikenberry, Corbin Bernsen, Jimmy Smits, Larry Drake
Behind the scenes: Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, creators
Years: 1986-1994 THE LAW AND MR. JONES
Synopsis: Fraud, embezzlement and jurisdictional disputes were the cases favored by the Oliver Wendell Holmes-quoting Abraham Lincoln Jones in this ABC series.
Cast: James Whitmore, Janet DeGore, Conlan Carter
Behind the scenes: Sy Gomberg, creator and producer
Years: 1960-1962 LAW & ORDER
Synopsis: NBC drama centering on New York’s police and criminal courts system. Spawned companion series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” in 1999.
Cast: Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, Dianne Wiest, Angie Harmon
Behind the scenes: Dick Wolf
Years: 1990-present THE LAWYERS
Synopsis: NBC drama featured three attorneys who had often conflicting approaches and interests who combine to form a law firm. Series came under the umbrella of “The Bold Ones.”
Cast: Burl Ives, Joseph Campanella, James Farentino
Years: 1969-1972 MATLOCK
Synopsis: Harvard-educated Southern defense attorney always seemed to have the knack for proving his clients innocent. Series started on the Peacock web, but switched to ABC in 1993.
Cast: Andy Griffith, Linda Purl, Kene Holliday, Nancy Stafford
Behind the scenes: Fred Silverman, producer.
Years: 1986-1995 OWEN MARSHALL, COUNSELOR AT LAW
Synopsis: A kindly defense attorney who practiced law in small-town California, taking on cases ranging from civil suits to murder in this ABC series. Cast: Arthur Hill, Lee Majors, Christine Matchett, Joan Darling
Behind the scenes: David Victor and U of Wisconsin law professor Jerry McNeely, creators
Years: 1971-1974 PERRY MASON
Synopsis: The most successful criminal attorney around was arguably television’s most popular, featured in this landmark CBS series. In nine years, Perry Mason never lost a case, and often won them in dramatic fashion with a key piece of evidence being rushed into the courtroom at a climactic moment.
Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman
Behind the scenes: Erle Stanley Gardner, creator
Years: 1957-1966 THE PRACTICE
Synopsis: Critically acclaimed ABC series about the cases taken by a Boston law firm specializing in criminal defense.
Cast: Dylan McDermott, Steve Harris, Camryn Manheim, Kelli Williams
Behind the scenes: David E. Kelley, creator
Years: 1997-present THEY STAND ACCUSED
Synopsis: Unscripted courtroom trial series with lawyers, judges and actors playing the parts of defendants and witnesses. The studio audience served as jury on the show, which bowed on CBS and moved to DuMont a year later.
Behind the scenes: William Wines, an assistant attorney general for Illinois, briefed participants on the details of each case.
Years: 1949-1954 Sources: “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows,” Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh; “Total Television,” Alex McNeil; “The Emmys,” Thomas O’Neil; Internet research
Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!