14 March 2008 | nandue0929
The Defenders: The reason I became a lawyer
This landmark TV series (1961-65) was years ahead of its time. It correlated many contemporary stories from the headlines and did so with uncompromising depth. The protagonist attorneys (The late E.G. Marshall, Robert Reed) lost nearly as many cases as they won, because the series focused on controversial social issues where there were no easy answers or solutions. This was reflected in the outcome of some episodes. The issues included abortion; euthanasia; capital punishment; censorship; blacklisting; criminal insanity; Nazis; cannibalism; and a variation of what is currently called "road rage." The first listed, "The Benefactor," was a compelling episode about abortion, years before it was legal. The last, "Death On Wheels," involved an enraged motorist who accidentally killed a pedestrian after a heated argument with his wife. A shocking case was the one about cannibalism. Two men were accused of murdering and literally devouring another man when they were all cast adrift in a lifeboat in the ocean. An unusual episode, "Mind Over Murder" involved a clairvoyant accused of murder based on ESP. The defendant's background was loosely parallel to the late psychic, Peter Hurkos.
The Defenders theme song coupled with an aerial view of the courthouses in Foley Square, New York City, were presented with the onset of each episode. Immediately before the theme, the viewer saw the actual crime being committed when possible, which was graphically realistic and sometimes unnerving. The lawyers then often interviewed their clients in a simulated version of "The Tombs," an archaic NYC jail. The late E.G. Marshall portrayed the lead attorney, Lawrence Preston, with flawless acting that was in a class by itself. Indeed, he was so convincing that it was difficult for me to think of him thereafter as anyone else. The style and integrity he displayed in The Defenders inspired my interest in the law and was one of the initial reasons I became a lawyer.