Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence. (This series ran originally in the Classic 1960’s TV Facebook group.)
CBS’ Trials of O’Brien starred Peter Falk as a New York defense attorney. The character broke the stereotype of television lawyers – as opposed to being straitlaced, formal, professional and organized, O’Brien was slovenly, looked disheveled even in a three-piece suit, had numerous vices, and spoke in slang. Many of the mannerisms Falk would later display in his career-defining portrayal of the detective Columbo can be seen in O’Brien.
Despite a pilot which received good ratings and favorable reviews, Trials of O’Brien quickly slid to the bottom of the pack and was canceled after just 22 episodes.
But the program did achieve a posthumous honor when writer David Ellis received the 1966 Writer’s Guild Award for the script “No Justice for the Judge.”
In this episode, which aired December 10, 1965, Burgess Meredith guest starred as Judge Benjamin Vincent. The elderly Vincent is troubled because he believes he is losing his mental faculties and hence his ability to perform his duty. He hires O’Brien to prove that he is still mentally competent.
Episodes of Trials of O’Brien are not available for streaming. Here, though, are the opening minutes of the pilot (September 18, 1965):
(Top photo: Peter Falk, Joanna Barnes and Elaine Stritch in Trials of O’Brien.’ Source: IMDb)
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