1 9 7 2 – 1 9 8 4 (UK)
879 x 30 minute episodes
This lunchtime Granada Television Production brought viewers into the fictional Fulchester Crown Court to witness a court case dramatised over three half-hour episodes on consecutive days (usually Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays).
The stories themselves were fictional but the procedure was legally accurate and the jury was composed of members of the public who delivered their unscripted verdict on each case.
Each episode began with the court reporter (Peter Wheeler) explaining the details of the offence, or summarising the events so far, accompanied by photographs of the key individuals concerned.
The jury would then be presented with all of the evidence as if for a real trial, and their verdict decided how each story would conclude (alternative endings were written to cover either outcome).
Since the action took place in one courtroom set and the protagonists were physically confined to the witness box, the dock or the counsel’s table, the emphasis was on the writing (plot and dialogue) and the acting.
The courtroom setting concentrated the conflict, and the division of the story into three parts meant that the twists of the plot had to be arranged to coincide with the climaxes of each episode. This gave a strong form and structure to the whole, as did the ritual cross-examination of the witnesses.
As in a real court, the judge and the lawyers were not the same every week, although some characters recurred over the years, such as Jonathan Fry QC (Bernard Gallagher) and the Hon. Mr Justice Campbell (William Mervyn).
The casting in this series was always extremely good, balancing the well-known with some relatively unfamiliar faces. A number of the defendants and witnesses were played by actors who later achieved great fame, including Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Peter Capaldi and Bob Hoskins.
The Hon. Mr Justice Campbell
Jonathan Fry QC
Andrew Logan QC
Dr Germaine Elwes