Yes, The Defenders Is Coming To DVD

First Cop Rock, now The Defenders is coming to DVD. Yesterday, Shout! Factory announced it will release a 9-disc set containing all 32 episodes from the first season of the critically-acclaimed CBS drama on July 12th. A notice on the Shout! Factory page for the set states “Extras in progress and will be announced at a later date.”

It seems wrong to call a TV show that ran for 132 episodes over the course of four seasons and won 13 Emmy Awards between 1962 and 1965 an obscurity. I do think it’s fair to say The Defenders has been largely forgotten outside of certain classic TV circles since it went off the air more than 50 years ago. I believe a few dozen episodes circulate among private collectors.

The Defenders: Season One (Courtesy of Shout! Factory)
The Defenders: Season One (Courtesy of Shout! Factory)

Created by Reginald Rose, The Defenders starred E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed as defense attorneys who tackled difficult cases. It was perhaps too topical and controversial to thrive in syndication and likely hasn’t been aired anywhere since the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The pilot for the series, which starred Ralph Bellamy and William Shatner, aired in 1957 as two episodes of the CBS anthology series Studio One. It was released on DVD in 2006. Footage from the pilot was incorporated into an April 2007 episode of ABC’s Boston Legal, which co-starred William Shatner.

Showtime attempted to revive The Defenders in 1997 as a series of telefilms but only completed two before original star E.G. Marshall passed away. A third telefilm was finished without him.

Hopefully, sales for the first season will be strong enough for Shout! Factory to release the remaining three seasons–and perhaps similiar dramas from the 1960s. To be honest, I’ve never seen a single episode of The Defenders (but I did watch that Boston Legal episode). Like I said, it’s not really an obscurity. That doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled the show is coming out on DVD.

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19 Replies to “Yes, The Defenders Is Coming To DVD”

  1. You should redefine your definition of an obscurity. Yes, this show lasted 4 years, but the fact remains that CBS never bothered to syndicate it because of its controversial themes. Since no one has broadcast it for half a century, it definitely qualifies as an obscurity. I have seen the Showtime revival in which Beau Bridges replaced Robert Reed and Martha Plimpton played Bridges’ daughter. Hopefully, some place like MeTV will pick up the entire series.

  2. This raises a point I’ve wondered about–What is obscure in its own time, and what becomes obscure over time.

  3. A little shout out to “Mad Men” for a reminder of “The Defenders”. In the Season 2, 2008 episode of MM called “The Benefactor” the 1962 episode of “The Defenders” (also titled “The Benefactor”) is a major part of the story. After seeing that I was curious to see not only that controversial episode, but other shows of the series. It’s nice to see that I might be able to now.

  4. I was not quite 10 years old when I saw a few episodes in reruns on the CBC northern service in the spring of 1971, and they were great. It is an obscurity to anyone not old enough to have seen the show before it was locked in the vaults.

  5. “The Defenders” was seen on KEMO T.V. San Francisco in ’70 through ’71 on 6:00P.M. on the weekends. Glad to see that justice (no pun intended) for this series release has been done. I’ll always remember that main title sequence in which E.G. Marshall was walking down on the steps of the courthouse. Now, let’s hope Shout! Factory will work out a deal with 20th century-Fox to put “The Felony Squad” and maybe “12 O’clock High” out on D.V.D.. “The felony Squad” hasn’t been seen since the mid ’90s when it was seen on T.V. Land and one episode was seen as part of “The Ultimate Fan Hour”.

  6. I Used To Watch The Defenders With My Mom Long Time Ago This Should Really Come To DVD The Felony Squad,12 O’clock High,And Judd For The Defense Should Really Come To DVD In Fully Restored And Newly Digitally Remastered Prints Soon Then.

  7. I watched the Defenders on UK TV in the sixties and it made a lasting impression on me, it is great that the first season is coming out on DVD.

  8. Here In New Zealand back in the late 1960s I saw this show as a teenager & I was even then a great fan,.IM over joyed its being finally released.This was quality tv per none.Buy it & hopefully the remaining 4 series will also be released.

  9. This is one show that definitely lives up to its hype and I wanted sincerely thank Shout Factory! for taking the risk of bringing a 55-year old program which had never been syndicated back out of the vault for old fans of the series to relish and to hopefully expose new generations to a legal drama of the highest quality. This is no Perry Mason where the defense lawyer wins every time or Law & Order where the audience is practically spoon-fed the clues but instead it is a riveting hour of television which fearlessly and thoughtfully confronted controversial issues in a mature and nuanced manner that ultimately leaves it up to the viewer to come terms with both the legality and the morality of the case. Just watching the first few minutes of Episode #1 “The Quality of Mercy” sets the tone of the series as you squirm with discomfort witnessing euthanasia principally through the dialogue of the doctors; this series definitely doesn’t pull its punches. The writing and acting are top-notch and the video and audio quality are certainly more than acceptable given the age of the show. Shout! really went above and beyond with the special features as well which include The Studio One Presentation Of The Defender (1957) Starring Ralph Bellamy, Steve McQueen And William Shatner, the original and extended version of the pilot episode, new interviews with associate producer Bob Markell and writer Larry Cohen, and an interview with actor E.G. Marshall

    Just to hold a Region 1 DVD release of “The Defenders: Season One” in my hands is nothing short of a miracle; I honestly never thought I’d live to see the day and I hope I get the express the same sentiment at least 3 more times with the releases of the remaining three seasons! Apparently Shout Factory’s possible release of seasons 2 through 4 is predicated on how well season 1 sells so I encourage everyone to support this release.

  10. I agree the time has come for the release of Season 1. Let’s try to get 2, 3, and 4. Season 1 is better than I remembered. I have 30 bootlegged copies of the Defenders. Often the quality of these copies is not very good.

    1. Been trying for years, Leonard. Apparently, Shout Factory does not control the rights to Seasons 2-4 of “The Defenders.”

  11. Initially the Shout Factory stated Season 2, 3, and 4 will be released. Now they are wavering. Let’s together and write and rewrite the Shout Factory requesting they release them. Season 1 was great. This show was too good to be locked away.

  12. Let’s all work together to get season 2, 3, and 4 released. We will willingly pay a higher price. This show was too good not to be seen again

  13. Just finished watching all the 32 episodes of The Defenders, and they all thought-provoking and interesting. It was fun trying to see if all the cast of ’12 Angry Men’ would show up. Well – seven of them did. I wasn’t counting on Henry Fonda to show. Outta Sight!!!

  14. This is really excellent and has aged well. While the video and audio quality of the 1957 Studio One pilot is not good (although more than good enough to watch), the quality of the actual The Defenders episodes themselves is excellent, with clear audio and few artifacts. You could attach a DVD player to an old black-and-white CRT television and imagine watching the show in 1961, it’s that good.

    I’d love to see seasons 2-4, and if I had to endure a little less diligence in cleaning up the source film, I could live with it if that were the price. But I’d happily pay the price for the series to be completed on DVD in this quality. It’s really exceptional, both technically and in terms of the story.

    It would be a real pity if someone didn’t release the other three seasons.

  15. Since Disney now owns 20th Century-Fox, they should have a M.O.D. D.V.D.-R. division so they can release discs of “12 O’Clock High”, “The Felony Squad” and the animated series “Fantastic Voyage” (which was produced by Filmation but the rights automatically went to 20th Century-Fox, since it was based on one of their feature films, and thus they own the rights), since none of these series have never been rerun on the Disney + streaming service.

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