Arrest and Trial, Part 2
DVD | Box Set
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Before Law & Order, there was Arrest and Trial, NBC's groundbreaking 1960's series starring Ben Gazzara and Chuck Connors. Truly ahead of its time, Arrest and Trial was a 90 minute show combining elements of police procedural and courtroom drama. In the first half of each episode, Sgt. Nick Anderson (Gazzara) of the LAPD tracked down and arrested a criminal. In the second half, Defense Attorney John Egan (Connors) fought to exonerate the accused.
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Although the format varied a bit from show to show, usually in the first half of each episode, a group of cops led by Ben Gazzara would investigate a crime (as usually happened on TV of that era, generally a murder) and make an arrest around the 45-minute mark. At that point, in a departure from Law and Order, the focus shifted to defense attorney Chuck Connors, who tried to defend the accused.
Some of these episodes were almost whodunnits in the Perry Mason mold, in which Connors tries to figure out just how the crime really occurred, while others were more like The Defenders, in which the show explored leading social and legal themes of the day, some of them still relevant today. Connors himself is surprisingly good as the attorney, for those who know him only from the Rifleman while Gazzara is as solid as always.
The quality of the episodes was definitely mixed, with some of them being pale imitations of either Mason or the various cop shows of the era. Another drawback is the quality of audio and video. These are not studio prints but taken from existing copies of the episodes, some of them of a bit questionable quality. In addition, the 90-minute running time in some cases allowed for greater exploration of the issues (such as My Name is Martin Burnham, in which defendant James Whitmore won't even defend himself because he wants to die). However, in other episodes, the show simply wandered too much. My personal favorite, and an unusual episode for the time, was Journey into Darkness, in which Roddy McDowall is an arrogant would-be intellectual whom Connors has to defend even though he knows McDowall is guilty.
My actual review for this set would be 2 1/2 stars owing to the mixed quality of the episodes in the set. However, if you're a fan of old time television as I am, there's a lot of fun in seeing vets Connors and Gazzara, not to mention some highly talented guest stars, to make this a marginal recommendation.
For people interested in seeing the series, you may be able to find better value elsewhere. The show ran one season with 30 episodes. This set contains nine episodes and another set (Arrest and Trial) contains another nine (the episodes in this set are taken at random from various times in the show's run). However, the complete series, featuring all 30 episodes, is also available for about the price of these two shorter box sets combined.
The contrast between the emotional intensity (always manageable) of this show with the action oriented focus of current shows (or joke-ridden focus) is interesting to say the least.
Anyone out there looking for a dissertation topic in sociology, psychology, or media studies? Take a look at some of the TV series from the 50s and early 60s.
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.