Peter Falk often said that his best work on TV was not on Columbo, but on a much, much lesser known TV show, The Trials of O'Brien. Trials of O'Brien suffered from the misfortune of being a mid-summer replacement for another highly praised (and very different) rating flop, Slattery's People. Slattery's People and The Trials of O'Brien were both superb shows about Irish surnamed lawyers which starred Italian American actors. Other than that, they were as different as night and day. One was the last of the New frontier dramas, the other, the first of the off-beat detective shows. One starred Richard Crenna as the crusading minority leader of a state house of representaives; the other starred Peter Falk as a down at his heels New york Trial lawyer. Both shows were studded with superb guest stars and blessed with clever wriitng. Neither can be found on oficial DVD. Instead, they molder in the CBS vaults.
Doesn't anyone remember this show? Peter Falk, a half-decade before Columbo, was in his element as eccentric, good-hearted, unexpectedly brilliant trial lawyer Daniel J. O'Brien, who inhabits a New York demi-monde Damon Runyon would have recognised instantly. O'Brien's an arch-conniver who never has two dimes to rub together, but he might be the best legal brain in the city - just as well, for his highly unlikely clients are always in all kinds of trouble. Guests included Milton Berle as a burlesque comic accused of murder, Burgess Meredith as a judge thought to be going senile and Alan Alda as an underground film-maker who might have bumped off a critic. Regular co-stars were: Joanna Barnes (as O'Brien's glamorous ex-wife), David Burns (as his principal assistant, a small-time con-man named McGonigle) and Elaine Stritch (as the loyal secretary who never gets paid). A divorced man who never made any money made an unlikely hero for conventional 60s TV and the show didn't last long - but wouldn't it be nice if it appeared on DVD soon?
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