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Series / Murder One

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Murder One is Law Procedural that broke new ground during its run in the late 90s. Rather than follow a new crime each week, the show dedicates an entire season of 23 episodes to a single case. This provides an extremely detailed view of the central case, more akin to how actual lawyers would approach it. For example, several episodes are spent on the process of jury selection, something rarely covered on other shows at the time. A number of smaller cases are handled as side-plots throughout the run.

The first season was a hit, but the second season floundered due to several key cast changes and a softening of the previous tight focus, leading to the show's cancellation. In spite of its brief run, the show helped pave the way for increased serialization in prime-time drama shows.

Series One provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Richard Cross. He keeps his cards close to his chest but it's always clear he's up to something shady and is not someone to fully trust or treat lightly yet he rarely has any issue manipulating even those who are smart enough to know his game, due in no small part to being played by Stanley Tucci who oozes charisma, style and dark wit.
  • Always Murder: Slightly averted in that several other trials, mostly not murders, are shown, mostly during the earlier episodes. But, well, it is right there in the title.
  • Amoral Attorney: The firm's lawyers often walk down the knife edge of acceptable behavior, staying just out of the Immoral Attorney version of this trope. One divorce lawyer that we meet, however, not only embodies it, but gleefully embraces it, at least until Teddy convinces the prospective divorcee that it's not the way to go. The show reflects the moral neutrality that Lawyers are supposed to maintain in Real Life; even if they are defending people they actually know to be guiltynote , lawyers are required by their oaths to be zealous advocates for their clients. The Quotes page for Amoral Attorney features a lengthy speech by Ted Hoffman to his juniors outlining his thoughts on the matter.
  • Big Secret: An awful lot of people have them. They tend to be very closely related to the case, rather than being incidental.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Episode five has one Jewish man on trial for attacking another in an antisemitic outburst. This turns out to be the result of a brain tumor, which causes a dismissal as he couldn't help himself.
  • Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun: handled very realistically. Through most of the series, the clues and evidence are suggestive, but not conclusive. When a smoking gun finally turns up, the lawyers have to spend most of an entire episode getting that evidence verified by experts, then have to convince a judge to allow it to be admitted, then have to defend it against the prosecution's attacks. Although in the last of those, it's against the DA rather than the prosecutor Miriam Grasso, because she's convinced it's genuine and he doesn't want to give up a win.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: In episode eleven one of the potential jurors turns out to be convinced that Cross and Avedon are part of a Masonic plot. He takes his own dismissal as further evidence for this, naturally.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The whole driving element of the first series, a dead fifteen year old prostitute.
  • Disregard That Statement: Frequently. We also see the reverse, with lawyers attempting to limit testimony and questioning in advance of the witness taking the stand because "you can't unring a bell weeks after it's been rung".
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Jessica Costello's body is found completely naked, and she's shown from behind. Given that she's supposed to be 15 years old, this is quite extreme for network television.
  • Everyone Knew Already: when it's finally revealed publicly that Chris and Lisa are dating, Teddy asks if he's the only one who didn't already know. Louis deadpans "I think there's a Temp in Typing."
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Polson and Hoffman. They spend the first half of season 1 openly antagonistic to each other, then Hoffman's daughter is kidnapped and Polson goes out of his way to help bring her safely home. Afterwards the two are still on opposite sides of the legal process, but the respect level between them is noticeably increased.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Nuh-uh. Teddy Hoffman, as played by Daniel Benzali, is a good lawyer, but he's not a Good Guy. Not a Bad Guy, either, mind you: he's in a class of his own. And although there are a few innocent people scattered about, most of the clients that Hoffman and Associates are seen to represent are guilty, and require good defense lawyers to get them the best possible deal, rather than a not guilty verdict.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Multiple examples, with Mary McCormack as Justine Appleton being the most apparent. When asked how she dealt with a prickly client, she deadpans "I practised my posture for him" and arches her back slightly to draw attention to her chest.
  • Honor Before Reason: Ted and the firm are in the habit of representing clients known to be guilty or at least facing impossible odds because they believe its the right thing to do.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Louis makes it abundantly clear in pretty much every scene he's in that he is the go-to guy at Hoffman & Associates for anything to do with running the day-to-day. In Season Two, Gwen fills the same role for Jimmy Wyler, but after she leaves, Louis comes straight back to his old role and owns it just as effortlessly as before.
  • Inspector Javert: Arthur Polson comes across this way at first, since he is the lead detective investigating the Costello murder. Later, this turns into something of an advantage for Hoffman & Associates, because once he starts suspecting that he might not have arrested the right man, he can't leave it alone.
  • Law Procedural: To the extent that, apparently, law students were advised to watch it as it covered more stages of trial than any other series before or since.
  • Never One Murder: Although the series focuses tightly on the murder of Jessica Costello, people get killed in pursuit of the truth.
  • Ominous Legal Phrase Title: Derived from another name for first-degree murder.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: A good number of them, as the legal process is mostly depicted in a good light. In particular ADA Miriam Grasso is a shining light of fairness. She might be prosecuting Neil Avedon, but she doesn't hold this fact against anyone in Hoffman and Associates or their many other defendants. Some of the trial judges in the single episode cases also stand out, such as the judge that does his level best to settle a neighborly dispute without court time, and when that fails, issues the guilty party with a lenient sentence that reflects the true facts of the case.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Played straight with Teddy's refusal to represent Jessica Costello's murderer for the sum of twenty million. After seeing how much damage he has caused, he tells him there isn't enough money in the world.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Averted, then played at full strength. Richard Cross has massive amounts of both money and connections, including being a financial supporter of the current DA. It doesn't do him a whole lot of good, initially, as everyone is keen to be seen not to be caving in to him. After everyone has demonstrated for the press and public just how unimpressed they are, things change.
  • Shout-Out: Hoffman and his associates often refer to an unseen "Ensalmo case," a running gag in Moonlighting.
  • Straw Feminist: Subverted in episode ten. A woman who works at a women's health clinic is a potential juror called in the Avedon trial, who's counseled rape victims in the past. The defense is afraid she might be biased given their client is charged with the rape and murder of a woman he was sleeping with, thinking she's a feminist who will thus have some hostile views of him. Their jury consultant points out things she might feel which are in their favor though, showing they shouldn't assume this just on the basis of her (inferred) feminism.
  • The Swear Jar: Ted Hoffman had one at home, monitored by his young daughter. When he said cursed and she brought him the jar, he smiled.
    Hoffman: Here's a quarter — and a kiss.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The series ends with the arrest of the real murderer. Subsequent captions tell us that he was convicted and is currently on death row, that the doctor who had worked for him to frame Neil is serving a ten-year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice, and that Richard Cross died of AIDS a few days after speaking at Neil's appeal.