Murder One - Series 1


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Trials are meat and drink to the movie business. Courtroom dramas? Can't get enough.

Even so, Murder One is a brave concept in this age of the top'n'tail 45-minute crime story. Maybe you can get enough of courtroom dramas if they go on too long and Case One lasts 16-and-a-half hours, or six discs in the DVD box set.

What begins in strict formulaic mode, with an insufferably self-satisfied leading man, Ted Hoffman, the most feared defence attorney in Los Angeles, played in various shades of intensity by Daniel Benzali (cue ball actor with narrow eyes who used to specialise in cold-hearted villains), ends like every successful soap with a standing ovation. Even Teddy stops being an authoritarian knowall and shows his softer side. As for Benzali, , you realise that his unnatural way of walking and opaque delivery is, in fact, a deeply subtle interpretation of an honourable man, trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, without losing respect as head of a law firm that prides itself on high moral principles.

The death by strangulation of 15-year-old Jessica Costello, protege and possible sex slave of millionaire entrepreneur Richard Cross (Stanley Tucci), results in the arrest of heartthrob soap star Neil Avedon (Jason Gedrick), who "confessed" to his psychiatrist (Stanley Kamel) on the night of the murder.

Opposing Hoffman and his team (Michael Hayden, Mary McCormack, Grace Phillips, J C MacKenzie) is the delightfully scatty, yet formidable figure of Miriam Grosso (Barbara Bosson), Teddy's friend outside the courtroom. The case, which appears open-and-shut, twists into knots as fresh evidence emerges.

The crime is only half the reason why Murder One becomes addictive. Slowly, as the trial advances, the secondary characters emerge as fascinating in their own right, with lives every bit as complicated. By the time Teddy has won over doubters, who reacted against his po-faced pomposity in the beginning and now admire his strengths, while sympathising with the marital problems - his wife (Patricia Clarkson) can no longer live in the wake of his workload - the series comes alive with subplots, as relationships snap like wishbones and herrings turn a livid shade of red.

Standout performances from Tucci, Gedrick and Bosson give constant pleasure, although it has to be admitted that Benzali is the rock upon which Murder One is built.

Defending other clients in seperate trials to ease the stress of non-stop People vs Avedon does not work so well, because they are thin distractions, rather than important sidebars. Believe it or not, after 16 hours of this, you are reluctant to let go.

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2004
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Heartthrob soap star is accused of strangling a 15-year-old Hollywood wannabee.
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Director: Mark Buckland, Jim Charleston, Donna Deitch, Jo Anne Fogle, Michael Fresco, Lesli Linka Glasser, Charles Haid, James Hayman, Elodie Keene, Joe Napolitano, Adam Nimoy, Steven Robman, Nancy Savoca, Rick Wallace, Randy Zisk

Writer: Steven Bocho, Ann Donahue, Charles H Eglee, William M Finkelstein, Channing Gibson, Nick Harding, Charles Holland, David Milch, Alfonso H Moreno, Geoffrey Neigher, Doug Palau, George Putnam, Gay Walch

Starring: Daniel Benzali, Mary McCormack, Michael Hayden, Grace Phillips, J C MacKenzie, Stanley Tucci, Jason Gedrick, Barbara Bosson, Patricia Clarkson, John Fleck, Bobbie Phillips, Joe Spano, Dylan Baker, Kevin Tighe, Stanley Kamel, Vanessa Williams, Linda Carls

Year: 1995

Runtime: 999 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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