all rise! Crown Court is back. The 1970s afternoon drama series that took viewers into a fictional courtroom – but with a jury of real people delivering their verdict – is being shown on British television for the first time since the original run ended in 1984.

Tomorrow from 2.30pm digital TV channel Talking Pictures will repeat the ground-breaking show – which ran for 11 series and 879 episodes from 1972 to 1984 – from the beginning.

And practically every British actor you’ve heard of has appeared in it: from Peter Capaldi to Maureen Lipman, Jim Broadbent to Colin Firth, whose first TV role was in the 1984 episode Policeman Called to Give Evidence Was playing the role of

Each 25-minute episode saw barristers examine witnesses in front of a jury of 12 members of the public – who were often taken off the street before recording. In a jury, only the foreman who delivered the verdict was an actor, as in the heavily unionized 1970s, speaking was a function for the equity member.

Colin Firth

Darcy’s debut: Colin Firth’s first TV role – a PC giving evidence

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Secrets out: Harry Potter’s Jim Broadbent was accused of possessing classified information in 1984

Storylines reflect the range of cases heard at the Crown Court, from domestic violence and drug abuse to business disputes and the occasional murder.

It was shot as a drama at Manchester’s Granada Studios. There was no retake, but two endings were rehearsed based on the verdict.

In 2017, ITV revived the idea with celebrity judge Rob Rinder, but made just two episodes.

Eagle-eyed viewers will find Maureen Lipman as the prosecuting attorney, Bird of a Feather’s Pauline Quirke as shoplifting single mum, Peter Capaldi as a young, red-haired punk, and Floella Benjamin as a racist Seen as a victim of abuse. ,

Alison Steadman

Alison Steadman

Cult star: Gavin and Stacey actress Alison Steadman plays victim of a violent commune leader while giving evidence in 1975

Pauline Quirke

Pauline Quirke

Doing Bird: Pauline Quirke was a con hostel warden before playing the role of criminal’s wife Sharon in Birds of a Feather in 1978

Richard Wilson, the future Victor Meldrew, made a name for himself as a snooty QC, while Oscar winner Colin Firth made his first TV role in the 1984 episode as a young policeman called to give evidence. See also Liz Dawn (Coronation Street’s Vera Duckworth) as a warder.

The show was set in the fictional town of Fulchester, with each case being heard over three consecutive days, and was shown from Wednesday to Friday.

Each 25-minute episode saw barristers cross-examine witnesses in front of a jury made up of a dozen members of the public – who were often taken off the street before recording. They then carried out their deliberations behind closed doors. While they were not required to speak on camera, they each had to qualify in real life for jury service.

But, in another intriguing twist, the foreman delivering the verdict had to be an equity actor, as he spoke the lines. After all, this was the heavy 1970’s union.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that Crown Court is back in session because, as a 13-year-old schoolgirl in South Wales, it was a guilty pleasure for me.

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson

I don’t believe it: long before there was Victor Meldrew, Richard Wilson was a barrister at the trial of an arsonist in 1973

peter capaldi

peter capaldi

Doctoring the Evidence: Future TARDIS owner Peter Capaldi was a rockabilly singer taking the witness stand in 1984

Despite loving school, I lived for the holidays, and that time when I was confined to my sick bed — because I knew that, once Pebble Mill at Forest was over, it would be time for my favorite courtroom drama. It was time to switch to ITV.

The familiar opening theme tune – the trumpet-driven fourth movement of Janacek’s Sinfonietta – and a wobbling close-up of the royal coat-of-arms, and we were away!

The storylines varied in tone and subject matter, reflecting the range of cases heard at the Crown Court every day – from domestic violence and drug abuse to local business disputes, arson and the occasional murder.

We never get to see the crimes being committed, nor do we get any information about the lives of barristers and judges. The show was shot like a drama on a custom-built set at Manchester’s Granada Studios.

Paula Wilcox

Paula Wilcox

Special case: Paula Wilcox was already famous from Man About the House when she appeared as a lawyer in 1981

maureen lipman

maureen lipman

Does he have criminology? Maureen Lipman as a barrister in a 1973 episode about a student-teacher relationship

Robert Powell

robert powell

God is my witness: Robert Powell, who would go on to portray Jesus of Nazareth, a vicar’s son in a 1974 episode

There were no retakes, but two different endings were rehearsed. The actors only learned which way the jury had voted when the foreman announced the verdict to the judge.

A trial titled Treason depicts a white Congolese man who is found guilty by the court and sentenced to death for treason – which was still punishable under British law at the time.

Does it stand the test of time? Fifty years is a long time in television. These days, with so many channels, both terrestrial and streaming, 50 minutes can seem like an eternity.

Certainly, an anagram of the ’70s is how much smoking was acceptable on screen at the time: the plumes of smoke in the courtroom corridor suggest that every witness there was a sly gasp as he approached.

When it comes to the jury, it’s a veritable Fraggle Rock of ‘ordinary people’ – women in hats, men with sideburns that bear a close resemblance to yetis, and hairpieces that look like squashed chihuahuas. When you look at how dated the series has become. Along with this, the black face is also rarely seen.

Over the years, efforts have been made to revive the show for modern audiences – a recent reboot centered around a celebrity judge, Rob Rinder, and moved to a Friday evening slot. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that the original, time-tested format remains the best.

I believe that given the undoubted success of its re-run on Talking Pictures, I think it is only a matter of time before the series is remade.

Just never put me on the jury: they’re all guilty as charged – send them down!

#TVs #Crown #Court #returns #years #guess #stars #1970s #drama

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