Paley Museum-The Defenders

Another stop in the Big Apple is the Paley Museum.  Here I watched selected episodes of The Defenders.

The Defenders was a legal series which ran from 1961 to 1965.  It featured a father and son law firm that tackled many controversial issues,  now discussed openly but then almost taboo.  Lawrence Preston, played by E. G. Marshall,  was the sharp veteran litigator.  His son Kenneth Preston, played by Robert Reed,  was a lawyer with only a few years experience.  This younger man was intelligent with an iron commitment to the bar.  Nevertheless, he had much to learn from his father and often got disillusioned with the law’s inability to correct at least reduce the social problems in our country.

As you can infer, this was not a mystery in the Perry Mason style.  Among the issues covered were euthanasia, capital punishment, the definition of insanity, blacklisting , and pacifism.  These lawyers were quite human. They made mistakes,  lost cases,  and  could leave a bad  situation unchanged.   Often their clients were unsavory leaving the Prestons to defend people they did not like or knew were guilty.  Lawrence Preston often said he defended the accused not the innocent or guilty.  What struck me about Lawrence Preston was his compassion and social concern but with a deep respect for the law.   The Defenders opened and finished with a sharp musical score and a picture of New York City Hall.

The pilot episode of the Defenders was  on the 1957 Westinghouse Studio One starring Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner.  Many notable performers appeared in the TV series such Frank Overton, Ruth Roman, Robert Redford, Viveca Lindfors, and Milton Berle.

There were 133 total episodes of The Defenders and 35 are available on the internet .   If memory serves,  all but three of  the remaining 99 three were very good. There were high royalties  for the series and they are in a film vaults at CBS Headquarters in Manhattan.   There allot of old TV available series from various sources.  Some, especially the comedies, were not worth watching the first time.  The Defenders was a great groundbreaking series that made us think  about different elements in our country .  If enough people write to CBS, release could happen.


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