1 9 6 1 – 1 9 6 3 (Australia)
163 x 60 minute episodes
Based on a successful radio drama from Crawford Productions which ran between 1958 and 1960, this low-budget Australian show from HSV-7 in Melbourne featured a different court case in each episode.
The actors playing Judges, Lawyers, Barristers, and police officers had their dialogue scripted, while all the actors playing witnesses had to ad-lib based on only a basic outline.
On the radio, each case had run as five 30-minute episodes. On television, it began as two-hour episodes but was soon cut down to 60 minutes.
The show – which was economical and quick to produce – won little distinction or glory, apart from a TV Week Logie award in 1961 for Best Australian Drama. Against imported dramas such as Perry Mason and Boyd QC, Consider Your Verdict looked distinctly tame.
Confined to the courtroom set, the Crawford production had no regular characters, although a small group of actors, including Wyn Roberts, Roland Strong, George Fairfax, Peter Aarnesson and Robert Peach, recurred as court reporters and counsel, and the action was confined to verbal interchanges between witnesses and counsel.
In early episodes, the role of the court reporter who hosted each case was partly that of a master of ceremonies and partly quiz-master to the audience at home (played variously by radio actor Roland Strong and later John Morgan). Later, dramatic values were centred on the people in the case.
From a production point of view, the format was very simple. The early part of the week was spent in writing and editing the script, casting, set preparation and other stages of pre-production.
Most of the Thursday rehearsal, held in Crawfords’ space in the Olderfleet Building at 475 Collins Street in Melbourne, was given over to the learning of lines and coaching of acting performance and, at the same time, working out actors’ movements and sequencing shots.
Friday was spent in making necessary changes to the script and giving actors extra rehearsals.
Recording took place on Saturday morning at the HSV Theatre in Collingwood, converted for the morning into a television studio. Before the advent of videotape, recording took place by filming the transmitted image from a monitor – a process known as ‘kinneying’.
Editing was difficult, so recording went from one commercial break to the next – any major mistake meant the sequence had to be shot again.
Each hour-long episode was required to be shot in three-and-a-half hours of studio time. Under the arrangement with HSV, any time beyond that was costed to Crawfords.
Although the series won only moderate ratings, it was important on a number of counts. Running to over 160 episodes, it was the most successful local production to that point. It was also the first drama series in Australia made outside a station by an independent producer.
The series was cancelled late in 1963 and Crawfords turned their attention to the production of the popular long-running Homicide series.