Arrest and Trial

June 4, 2008

Debuting today on the website is the last of the dispatches from the archives that got killfiled when the late, lamented Television Chronicles magazine received its cancellation notice back in 1998.  It’s a lengthy production history and critique of the hybrid 1963-64 police procedural-slash-courtroom drama Arrest and Trial, now remembered mainly as a footnote in TV history due to its structural resemblance to Law & Order.

As a footnote is arguably how Arrest and Trial should be remembered.  It’s not a classic on the order of East Side/West Side or The Invaders.  When I took on the show, it was on the assumption that its blatant emulation of elements of Naked City (in the arrest half) and The Defenders (in the trial half) would mean it might rank alongside them.  As I actually watched and wrote about Arrest and Trial, I realized that the attempt to combine the disparate virtues of those two classics had created something of a misshapen mess – and I wondered if the series was worth the amount of time and the number of words I’d devoted to it.  But as Timeless Media began releasing Arrest and Trial on DVD last fall, it seemed like a good time for me (and perhaps my readers) to reconsider the series. 

In polishing the piece a bit and revisiting some of the episodes, I’ve been reminded of the virtues that do make Arrest and Trial eminently watchable.  Ben Gazzara was one of the most inventive actors of his generation, with an intimate technique well-suited to the small screen.  The show’s sizable budget permitted more location shooting than just about any other Universal TV production ever managed, and so Arrest and Trial offers a terrific tour of 1963 Los Angeles.  (And as I know the city better now than I did ten years ago, I’d love to have time to watch the episodes again just to try to figure out where each one was filmed.  If anyone Angelenos who are seeing the show on DVD care to, I hope they’ll post some notes along those lines in the comments here.) 

I was also struck by how Arrest and Trial‘s image of law enforcement is so far removed from both our actual and fictionally represented experiences that it’s like something beamed in from another planet.  The Civil Rights-era plainclothes detective (played by Gazzara) who heads up the first half of Arrest and Trial is not just soft-spoken and empathetic – the kind of guy whose shoulder you just want to lean your head on – he’s also a frank advocate of the policeman as social worker and psychiatrist instead of head-buster.  You can imagine how real-life cops of the twenty-first century would guffaw if they somehow found this program in their Netflix queues.  Today our police have dropped all pretense of having a relationship with civilians that’s anything but adversarial – and our cop shows and cop movies, both those that demonize and even those that glorify the police, get a visceral charge in depicting the collateral damage that their subjects inflict on anyone unlucky enough to get between a cop’s foot and an ass that needs kicking.  I live in a city where the police department has enacted blatantly unconstitutional policies against its citizens, over and over again, and been rewarded not with censure but with municipal and judicial approval.  So seeing Arrest and Trial again after ten years moved me unexpectedly.  It was a reminder of one way in which we’ve lost our way since the sixties.  Or, if that’s too naive, it’s a depiction of a civic ideal that we might never have had – but that we should still be trying for.

To date Timeless Media has released two DVD collections of Arrest and Trial, containing 18 of the series’ 30 episodes.  Of the thirty, four episodes are essential: “Journey Into Darkness,” “Funny Man With a Monkey,” Sydney Pollack‘s “The Quality of Justice,” and “The Revenge of the Worm.”  Thus far only the first two are available among the DVDs, so one hopes a third volume will emerge.

If you make it all the way to the end, don’t neglect the episode guide, which contains a lot of wonky trivia – episode budgets, shooting dates, unused episode titles, uncredited writers and actors – gleaned from the series’ production files.

5 Responses to “Arrest and Trial”

  1. Bob Huggins Says:

    Stephen, I just wanted to post a note of thanks for your efforts on this article and accompanying episode guide. I seriously doubt that a more exhaustive article will ever be written about “Arrest and Trial.”

    I have no recollection whatsoever of seeing “A&T” during the original broadcasts as I would have been only 10 years old at the time and wouldn’t have been mature enough to fully understand the show had I seen it. I’m guessing that the odd running time and a comparatively small number of shows produced has pretty much kept the show off the syndication market. But, for me, the episodes that Timeless Media has released to date on DVD have been consistently engaging, despite a less than stellar audio/visual presentation . . . . and I’m in agreement with you that we will, hopefully, see a third volume.

  2. Brian Cuddy Says:

    Thanks for your fine article on “Arrest and Trial”. When I heard about the show in 1963, it sounded really promising based on the format and the casting. The show sounded like the first half would be “Naked City” and the second half “The Defenders”. I think everyone involved tried hard, and the results were pretty good if not great.

    I was a fan of Chuck Connors, but I wasn’t too impressed with his performance as an attorney. Connors seemed surprisingly colorless and not totally convincing. Connors character should have been more flamboyant. Connors said at the time that Universal originally wanted him to play the cop, but he felt that would be too much like his character on “The Rifleman”.

    Gazzara might have been a better choice as the attorney, especially if the original conception of an aggressive night school lawyer up from the streets had been kept.

    Also Herb Meadows’orignal conception of a tough no-nonsense cop being teamed with a more thoughtful, better educated partner seemed to offer more dramatic possibilities than what they wound up with. Maybe Telly Savalas and Michael Parks would have had good chemistry as the mismatched cops.

    After reading your article on Sydney Pollack, I watched his “Arrest and Trial” episode at the Paley Center in New York. I found the episode compelling, better than I remembered it. I particularly liked Carol Rossen. Howard Rodman’s script was striking, although you could see why Pollack might have had some problems with it (as Roger Perry suggests). I think you are right that Rodman’s script is more the star than Pollack’s direction. But an unobtrusive director is not always a bad thing.

    In a way it is heartening at how much better “Law and Order” is than “Arrest and Trial”. Maybe televison is getting better.

  3. Grant Tracey Says:

    I love this series. I’ve watched the two volume (six DVDs) that Timeless has put out and I hope to see the remaining 12 episodes in future volumes. Ben Gazzara has a low-key intensity that makes him ideal as Sgt. Nick Anderson.

    Anyway, I have a question. I looked at your episode guide and discovered something that I suspected: “Run Little Man, Run” was the first episode filmed way back in December of 62), but not the first aired. Can we assume that this was the pilot for the series? I was also wondering if the two brief scenes with Roger Perry (Gazzara’s sidekick) in that episoe were added later to create continuity. According to the plotline, Kirby (Perry’s character) has to go to El Paso or something. This explains why he’s missing and Paul Carr (who plays detective Horgan or Hogan)is on the case. Carr looks a bit like Perry and maybe the network suits didn’t like him as Gazzara’s second so they didn’t recast him for the series? Thus, when the pilot aired as a regular episode new scenes with Perry had to be shot to account for his absence from the storyline? I don’t know, but it seems plausible. So the shooting/production date would have a slight addendum? Any thoughts on this?


  4. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Hi, Grant.

    Yes, you’re exactly right. As I made clear (hopefully) in the article, “Run, Little Man, Run” was indeed the series’ pilot. I’m not exactly sure when they did whatever (presumably minimal) reshoots were needed to explain the absence of the replacement characters. I would guess that they just tacked the new scenes onto the shooting schedule (and budget) of another episode, and that I didn’t notice those pickups on the daily production reports, if they were even recorded.

    It’s really a funny coincidence that exactly the same thing happened on the OTHER 1963 series that I wrote about for this website — “East Side / West Side.” On both shows cast members were replaced, and then the pilot featuring the original actors was buried (with minimal if any reshoots) in the winter doldrums.

  5. daddywolfsf Says:

    Zalman took that same stillness into the role of Jesus in the Passover Plot, one of the better Jesus film offerings.

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