Thursday, October 25, 2012

O is for Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law


I feel quite certain that sometime in the past few weeks I must have mentioned that my preference in television programming lies in shows of the dramatic variety, and in the world of drama, cops and lawyers hold the top spot in my heart.  I watch more cop shows, but that may be only because there are more of them.  You know—uniform cops, detective cops, military cops, private investigator cops, consultant cops, the list goes on and on. 

But attorney shows don’t come in quite so many varieties, since the idea is to build a program around people who practice law.  Still, I’ve watched a lot of them; currently the lineup includes Suits, The Good Wife, and Fairly Legal (though, technically, the latter focuses on a mediator, not a practicing attorney, but there’s still a lot of lawyering going on).  But before these programs, before Harry’s Law, Boston Legal, or Eli Stone, my very first introduction to legal television was Owen Marshall:  Counselor at Law.

owen marshall

Certainly, Owen Marshall was not the first lawyer show on TV, not even the first one in my lifetime.  I might have seen Perry Mason first, though all my memories of the Raymond Burr classic come from reruns, so I don’t have a good grasp of the timing of those memories.  Either way, Owen Marshall absolutely feels first to me.

Premiering in 1971, Owen Marshall starred Arthur Hill as the title character, a lawyer just really trying to help his clients.  He was kind, and honest, and believed in using the law for justice.  That was back in the days when lawyers garnered at least a modicum of respect, not like today, when the general consensus seems to be that they’re all lying scumbags who got rich off the backs of any poor soul who was foolish enough to trust them.  I’m confident that the common belief is greatly exaggerated, but it would be hard to tell from the attorney portrayals on television, even many of my favorites.

But, as I said, this program was from the days of kinder, gentler lawyers, and it was nice to see folks working hard to help good people avoid whatever injustices had been thrown their way.  In addition to Hill, there was an earnest assistant played by Lee Majors.  That was before he became wildly famous as The Six Million Dollar Man, but after I’d already become infatuated with him as Heath Barkley.  Having him on the show regularly was an added bonus.

As a slight digression, there was another program on around the same time, Marcus Welby, M.D., (starring Robert Young, who was Jim Anderson to my parents, but always Dr. Welby to me) and it was about a kindly doctor (and his young, earnest assistant) doing whatever he could to make life better for his patients—even making house calls.  I enjoyed it, too, and always thought the two show were very similar, just one was about a doctor and one a lawyer.  It was a while before I realized they had the same creator, David Victor.  I pick up on those things a lot quicker these days.

When I was young, there were quite a few years when I really thought I’d grow up to be a lawyer.  As I got older, there were a lot of realities that came to my attention that caused me to change my mind.  One of them, sadly, is that the practice of law isn’t nearly as interested in the pursuit of justice as Owen Marshall had led me to believe.  That’s really too bad, and, even as an adult, there are a lot of times I wish real life could be more like TV.

Owen_Marshall_cast_1973 10-25-12

Were there any television programs that made you aspire to a career? 

Linking up with all the fine folks over at ABC Wednesday.   Do stop by and visit some of the other entries. ABCW11





And, we’re inching ever closer to November; this marks post #24 in my series, 31 Days of the Small Screen.  You can find more month-long topics over at Nesting Place.  There are over a thousand blogs participating, so I bet there’s something you’d be interested in.31 Days of TV