104 Muriel Spark, Douglas Coupland
107 The Clash, Brian Wilson
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‘Before 24, there was Murder One.‘ Not my words, but the line from the PB people to launch the long-awaited release of Steven Bochco‘s landmark 1995 courtroom show. And while this partly comes across as a mildly cheeky attempt to get further interest going in Fox’s current pacily dramatic jewel in the crown (there‘s even a trailer and a documentary about series three of 24 on this DVD, the scamps), the similarities are stark. A long-running show (23 episodes) set in a corrupt LA with a towering yet flawed central character (who practically growls his way through the action) investigating one main case with more twists and turns than a barrel of rattlesnakes with ADHD.
And like 24 and Kiefer‘s Jack Bauer, much of Murder One’s success was down to a bravura performance from its lead. Daniel Benzali quite simply is this show. As defence attorney Teddy Hoffman, the moral ambiguities and legal complexities would swirl weekly around his domed head with often lethal consequences. The pain of his being canned at the conclusion of the first series (Anthony LaPaglia stepped into the breach for series two as hotshot ex-prosecutor Jimmy Wyler) is apparent in the ‘making of’ extra, as he lets loose more genuine emotion than Teddy was ever allowed to set free from his stony, gargoyled exterior.
Murder One. unlike the accused represented by Hoffman’s crack firm, was never really given a proper chance. In their divine wisdom. the American schedulers deemed it appropriate to put the show up against ER, which was quite untouchable at that point, and ratings were never as spectacular as they should have been. And when the series was aired in the UK during the summer of 96 there was seething outrage (in this reviewer’s household, any road) when the final dramatic episodes were held over for the Atlanta Olympics.
The story concerns the sex, drugs and violent death of 15- year-old Jessica Costello. Among the suspects are slimy millionaire Richard Cross (Stanley Tucci), sleazy Hollywood producer Gary Blondo (John Pleshette), dirtbag and housewife favourite Neil Avedon (Jason Gedrick) and probably corrupt shrink Graham Lester (Stanley Kamel). Part of the drama is the difficulty which Teddy has when handling these fraught and flawed individuals, and when the crime finally infiltrates his home. shit and a fan make their acquaintance.
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IT HAD MORE TWISTS AND TURS THAN A BARREL or RATTLESNAKES
What becomes clear from the delicious ‘making of’ feature is that it’s not only Benzali who regrets the ending of his time on Murder One. All the interviewees glaze over when they recall that heady year and reflect on the fact that they haven‘t worked on anything half as good as the show in the decade that followed; the exceptions to the rule are Tucci and Dylan Baker (Happiness), both of whom who are regrettably not interviewed here. Arguably, Bochco himself has never really fully recovered. Intriguing experiments such as Brooklyn South and his foray into literature with Death by Hollywood have never brought him another Hill Street Blues, LA Law or NYPD Blue.
But for those who still believe Murder One to be one of the finest US dramas ever to have reached these shores, maybe being cut down in its prime has done it a favour. At least the show never went way beyond its use-by-date such as the season after season death throes suffered by once- successful exports such as ER, Frasier or Friends. But its loss still feels like a death in the family. (Brian Donaldson)
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We have three sets of the six-disc Murder One set to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, just send an email to email@example.com no later than 7 October 2004. Usual List rules apply.
Daniel Benzali stalked his courtroom like a
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