Lawyer in Your Living Room

davidPapkeI enjoyed serving on “the jury” chosen by the American Bar Association to pick the top 25 law shows during the history of prime-time television.  Our list and sketches of the shows just appeared in the August, 2009 ABA Journal.  I was pleased but surprised that “The Defenders,” a fine series from the early 1960s ranked third.  The other top series – “L.A. Law,” “Perry Mason,” and “Law & Order” – are not only great law shows but also milestones in the history of entertainment television.  Meanwhile, I’m not sure “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” deserve their places on the list.  I enjoy both, but they seem to me police procedurals rather than law shows.

If anyone is curious, here’s the full list:

  1. “L.A. Law” (1986-94)
  2. “Perry Mason” (1957-66)
  3. “The Defenders” (1961-65)
  4. “Law & Order” (1990-present)
  5. “The Practice” (1997-2004)
  6. “Ally McBeal “ (1997-2002)
  7. “Rumpole of the Bailey” (1978-1992)
  8. “Boston Legal” (2004-08)
  9. “Damages” (2007-present)
  10. “Night Court” (1984-1992)
  11. “Judging Amy” (1999-2005
  12. “Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law” (1971-74)
  13. “JAG” (1995-2005)
  14. “Shark” (2006-08)
  15. “Civil Wars” (1991-93)
  16. “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law” (2000-9)
  17. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2001-present)
  18. “Murder One” (1995-97)
  19. “Matlock” (1986-1995)
  20. “Reasonable Doubts” (1991-93)
  21. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999-present)
  22. “Judd for the Defense” (1967-69)
  23. “Paper Chase” (1978-79, 1983-86)
  24. “Petrocelli” (1974-76)
  25. “Eli Stone” (2008-09)

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Gordon Hylton

    Interesting list! I would have added two shows: The Law and Mr. Jones, an early 60’s Perry Mason imitator starring James Whitmore that was much more realistic than the show it imitated, and Sparks, a UPN comedy from the late 90’s about the trials and tribulations of a small,all-black, inner-city, family law firm. It was frequently quite silly, but no more so than Night Court.

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