Monday, November 30, 2015

DVD Spotlight on "The Bold Ones: The Lawyers"

Good news for classic TV fans! On December 1st, Timeless Media continues its DVD releases of the social dramas that aired under the umbrella TV series The Bold Ones (1968-73). The Lawyers stars Burl Ives as a crafty attorney working with two junior associates played by Joseph Campanella and James Farentino. The DVD boxed set includes two made-for-TV movies and 27 episodes that aired in a one-hour time slot. Earlier this year, Timeless Media offered boxed sets of two other Bold Ones TV series: The Senator (with Hal Holbrook) and The Protectors (starring Leslie Nielsen and Hari Rhodes).

Guy Stockwell and James Farentino.
The highlight of The Lawyers DVD collection may be the 1968 TV-movie The Sound of Anger. Often listed as a pilot, it's actually a "one off" telefilm starring Lynda Day George and David Macklin as young lovers accused of murdering George's wealthy father. Macklin's sister enlists brothers Brad and Nick Darrell (Guy Stockwell and Farentino) as defense attorneys. Ives plays sly local lawyer Walter Nichols, who agrees to defend Lynda Day George. Initially, there is a lack of trust among the attorneys...until the brothers learn to value Nichols' understanding of Citrus County politics.

Allegedly based on a true Orange County murder case, the script was co-written by Roy Huggins, the man behind such TV classics as Maverick and The Fugitive. Huggins and co-writer Dick Nelson pull off not one, but two two nifty and very satisfying twists. Director Michael Ritchie edits the film flashily, which is occasionally distracting and sometimes very clever. Ritchie went on to become a successful big screen director, helming critically acclaimed films (Downhill Racer, Smile) and mainstream hits (The Bad News Bears).

Lynda Day George,
Although the three male leads all acquit themselves nicely, the revelation here is Lynda Day George's performance. The former model, and widow of actor Christopher George, was a busy television actress in the 1960s and 1970s. She eventually joined the cast of Mission: Impossible as a regular in 1971. The Sound of Anger features what may be her finest performance as a defendant who may be a loving innocent daughter--or a cold-blooded, manipulating killer.

Hal Halbrook prior to The Senator.
The DVD set's second telefilm, The Whole World Is Watching (1969), clearly serves as the pilot film for The Lawyers TV series. Joseph Campanella replaces Guy Stockwell as Farentino's brother (now called Brian Darrell). Walter Nichols (who almost seems to be a different character) and the Darrell brothers have started a practice together in San Francisco. The plot centers around a student protester who allows himself to be arrested for murder in order to "teach the Establishment a lesson." Hal Holbrook has a small but key role as a university chancellor-- a performance that earned him an Emmy nomination (and also no doubt led to his casting in the pilot for The Senator). Although not as gripping as The Sound of Anger, this series pilot focuses on the kind of legal and social issues that would serve the resulting TV series well.

Joseph Campanella.
The one-hour episodes of The Lawyers sometimes eschewed the courtroom, as in "A Game of Chance," which finds Brian Darrell going undercover to clear his brother of drug charges. The best episodes, though, are those that focus on the ethics of the legal profession. For example, in "The People Against Ortega," Brian faces potential disbarment at the episode's conclusion for misleading the judge in his efforts to win acquittal for his client.

The Lawyers debuted as one of The Bold Ones rotating series in September 1969. Originally, it aired alongside The New Doctors and The Protectors. In 1970, The Protectors was replaced by The Senator, which only lasted one year despite much critical acclaim. For its third season, The Bold Ones consisted of The Lawyers and The New Doctors. That proved to be the closing argument for The Lawyers, which was cancelled after 27 episodes over three seasons. (The New Doctors continued for a short fourth season.) During its run, The Lawyers won Emmys for direction (Alexander Singer) and music (Pete Rugolo).

Burl Ives as Walter Nichols.
Following The Lawyers, James Farentino immediately started another rotating TV series, Cool Million, which was part of the short-lived NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. Joseph Campanella carved out a highly successful career guest-starring in television series such as One Day at a Time, The Colbys, and Beauty and the Beast. Burl Ives made several appearances on another Roy Huggins TV series, Alias Smith and Jones, but reduced his roles before retiring from film and TV in 1988.

Timeless Media's The Bold Ones: The Lawyers boxed set contains eight discs. There are no bonus features, but visual quality is good for a 1970s television show. One can only hope that a release of The Bold Ones: The New Doctors is in the wings.

Timeless Media provided a copy of this DVD set for review.


  1. I remember Hal Halbrook as the Senator, but I don't think I ever saw any of the others. You always make theses shows sound like something I'd like to see!

  2. I saw a few of these on Me-TV and they were excellent. Definitely looking forward to picking up this set.

  3. I have a very vague memory of these series from when they were originally broadcast, I was very young so probably caught snippets when my folks were watching, but did watch them again when ME-TV ran them briefly and really enjoyed this most of all though I did like the New Doctors.

    I think I like these best because they date the least, the courtroom setting is pretty unchanging whereas medical advances have made some of the doctor show obsolete. Despite that the acting in both shows was by and large excellent.

    One episode of this called Lisa, I Hardly Knew You stayed with me. Farentino's character is to be married after a whirlwind courtship when his fiancee suddenly disappears and is found dead, a suicide, shortly after. That's not a spoiler since it all happens within the first few minutes of the show but it was how the show dealt with all the ramifications that followed that is quite moving. As a bonus the guest star, one of the tremendous benefits of these shows is the appearance of performers making their way up, is Ellen Burstyn in between The Last Picture Show and The Exorcist-I think it could have been the very next thing she did. Her role isn't huge but it is key.

    1. The first few episodes feature a bunch of stars and stars-in-the-making: Lynda Day George, Murray Hamilton, Mel Torme, Carrie Snodgrass, and Craig Stevens.

  4. I enjoy "The Lawyers" quite well, despite some unusual direction/editing to reveal truths about characters. It is interesting to see the guest stars. This would make a great Christmas gift!