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.
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.