The Warner Archive complete-series DVD release of the 1962-63 NBC legal drama "Sam Benedict" shows the value of good source material. Although the cases are fictional, the titular celebrity San Francisco attorney is based on real-life legal eagle/series consultant Jacob W. Ehrlich. The recommended companion release this time is the (reviewed) Archive complete-series DVD set of the 1963-65 drama "Mr. Novak." That fellow quasi-anthology series revolves around the titular rookie teacher typically trying to have a positive impact on a different student in each episode.
A particularly special aspect of this series is an early episode being in color. The best speculation is that this is part of an NBC promotion to encourage viewers to purchase color sets.
That guy who was in that thing Edmond O'Brien stars as essentially sole practitioner Benedict. Secretary extraordinaire Trudy Wagner is his Della Street. Rookie attorney Hank Tambor is more of a tenant than an associate.
The "Benedict" pilot perfectly reflects the spirit of the series. The first challenge facing Benedict is defending a client in a murder trial in which 12 angry men are a hung jury. This provides context for the presiding judge to lecture the "peers" and the audience about the nature of jury deliberations.
On a personal note, the sudden death of a friend presents our hero with a moral predicament. The spendthrift brother of the deceased wants his payoff before the dearly departed is put to rest. On top of that, this sibling is fighting the legal right of the adopted daughter of the dead man to get a piece of the estate. The well-know lesson regarding this is that death brings out the worst in people; the rest of the story is that procrastinating about keeping a will up-to-date can haunt your heirs.
Another early episode is especially Hitchcockian. Benedict is defending the daughter of a long-time family friend in a trial for the murder of her husband. The debate between client and attorney regarding whether to present an insanity defense provides context for discussing when a mental incapacity is a mitigating factor in a legal proceeding. The dramatic climax shows the consequences of repression.
Mental capacity also is an issue when a young widowed Japanese immigrant battles the parents of her late husband for custody of her unborn child. A primary issue here is the extent to which an apparent mental incapacity is attributable to limited English skills. Getting to the root of the problem is one of many instances of social commentary in this cerebral series that equally entertains and provokes thought.
We additionally get a case of a cop killing the college-age son of a one-percenter. The issue extends beyond the validity of lethal force to a more basic dilemma. This career cop must decide whether invoking his Fifth Amendment right to keep his doughnut hole shut is worth the price of definitely losing his job. We also get a taste of the perfect storm that can result when a hair-trigger cop on the verge of burnout conflicts with an arrogant young punk.
This opening statement on the merits of "Benedict" shows that the presented issues remain just as relevant and compelling more than 55 years later. The bigger lesson is that morons who do not learn from history are doomed to shell out big bucks to relive it in court.