Yes, I know….it’s only TV, but I have a thought.

I was sitting in bed Saturday morning watching some TV with Wilma.  As is her habit, the TV was tuned to TBS, which often runs her favorite – LAW AND ORDER.

You know it.  It’s the one that combines the efforts of the police and the prosecutor’s office to investigate crimes and then make the appropriate arrests, followed by some very

astute legal work proving the guilt of the arrested person.  The ‘guilty’ verdict is not always achieved, but the flow of the program is to prove the guilt beyond the usual shadow of doubt.

The show has been on quite a long time, and in many incarnations.  At first it was Michael Moriarity as the prosecutor, then Sam Waterston and others beyond.  The head of the office was some older crusty guy – I particularly remember former senator Fred Thompson in that role.  The assistants have been many – most of them women.

And don’t get me wrong … it is a good show for the genre.  It must be – it is copied time and time again.  NCIS fits here as does CRIMINAL MINDS and the other variants of LAW AND ORDER, including LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.

The point being this – the goal of these shows is to investigate and prosecute the accused to the full extent of the law.

Now let me take you back to another time.  Let’s go back about 50 years to what television had to offer the legal community back then.  I give you two shows to consider, and I bet you can name at least one of them.

PERRY MASON gave us episodes of defense attorney Perry Mason and his team of Della Street and Paul Drake.  They were sometimes hired to take a case, sometimes ordered to take a case.  Their job: prove that their client was innocent of all charges.  It took things to a rather ridiculous level, as Perry never lost a case.

The other show I have in mind: THE DEFENDERS starting E.G. Marshall and a very young Robert Reed (for the unschooled or young ones out there…. He went on to be Mr. Brady.)  They, too, were defenders of so many different cases.  This show did not have the recognition factor given to PERRY MASON, but they were nonetheless on the defensive side of the courtroom.

As with LAW AND ORDER, there were other shows to match PERRY MASON.  There was BURKE’S LAW, for example.

The goal of these shows was to provide a defense and due process for the accused.

Consider now the evolution of these kinds of shows over the years.  We have gone from centering on the defense of the accused to centering on the prosecution of the accused.  It seems to me  that back then, society was much like PERRY MASON, ready to give the accused due process in the court, holding to the ‘presumed innocent until guilty.  Is today’s society now leaning to the reverse?  Is today’s society bearing a cynical view of any accused?  Are we seeing a preference for ‘guilty until proven innocent’?  Unfortunately, I lean to answering that question with a yes.

And wouldn’t it be interesting to have Perry Mason take on Jack McCoy in today’s courts?

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