Everybody loves to curl up on the sofa and watch a gripping tale of crime and punishment! Ever since producers have been making television shows they have been bringing the viewing public stories of heinous crimes, clever cover-ups and daring legal coups that see the villain packed off to gaol for a satisfactorily long period!
Law & Order
Law & Order is the longest running crime and legal drama, now in its incredible twentieth season. The show has endured for so long because of the careful research into legal terminology, precedent and processes, and also because the cast are dedicated and hard-working, bringing the gritty crime of the mean streets and pompous solemnity of court to life in the living room. The series has spawned a number of spin-offs, including Law & Order: Special Victims, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order UK. The innovation combination of seeing the crime committed, following the clues to find the perpetrator and then the culmination of the trial where the 'bad guy' is not always found guilty has contributed to the popularity of the show, as well as giving the viewers a better understanding of the ins and outs of the legal system.
Rumpole of the Bailey
This English classic is a light-hearted comedy that takes UK legal processes very seriously. It is apparent that the author, John Mortimer, drew on his real life experiences as a barrister from the clearly written and minutely accurate minutiae that set the show apart from the competition. Rumpole is a loveable character, apparently bumbling and muttering his way through life until the denouement which invariably proves that his understanding of the situation and life in general far surpasses that of his opposite number.
This tight naval legal drama showed the world the hitherto unknown workings of the legal system within the armed forces, or at least the sea-going branch of it. Judge Advocate General is the military name that gives rise to the name JAG, and the series showed how the navy deals with any number of diverse crimes, from murder and rape to embezzlement and illicit gambling. The series, though short-lived, gave way to the highly popular NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles.
Matlock is famous as setting the formula for the dramatic acquittal by presenting exculpatory evidence in front of the jury. Matlock ran for around ten years, between 1986 and 1995 with a short break. While younger viewers may not recognise the name, their elders will, and everyone enjoys the last minute triumph of the underdog – something Matlock had down to a fine art!
Eli Stone was not an especially large financial success, but it deserves a mention on this list as being an innovative idea for a legal drama. The protagonist suffers hallucinations which may be the symptoms of a brain aneurysm, or a sign that something large and mysterious is at work in the universe. Eli Stone works his way through his cases while a back story slowly unfolds regarding the 'big picture' of his hallucinations. Unfortunately, the series being cancelled after its second season meant the viewer was never enlightened as to what this might be!
The legal drama is a very popular genre, and lends itself well to producing an entire story within the forty minutes demanded by regular viewing patterns. Individual shows may come and go, but the tale of the legal drama, with dreadful deeds, action-packed court-room battles and suitable punishment being meted out, is sure to be around for many years to come.
James Rowland works in SEO for a prestigious marketing company in the UK. With years of experience in copywriting he enjoys writing about travel, insurance, finance and sport.