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Before there was Quincy and The Practice, there was Rumpole. Rumpole of the Bailey is, quite simply, one of the finest television series, and it has served as a model for all law dramas that followed it. Edgy and satirical, Rumpole is based on John Mortimer's books of the same name. A determined and committed criminal defense barrister (whose clients have included three generations of the Timson family, among others) at the Old Bailey (criminal court), esteemed actor Leo McKern portrays the antihero Rumpole. As champion of the downtrodden, the self-righteous Rumpole loves to get in trouble with his wife Hilda, his peers, the head of chambers, and judges, to name but a few. A connoisseur of Wordsworth, cigars, and cheap liquor, McKern's usually disheveled Rumpole belies the character's dry sense of humor and astute skill as a barrister. The upwardly mobile Hilda is played by Peggy Thorpe-Bates, known for her Miss Toliver in Alcatraz Island, and Justice Sir Guthrie Fetherston is played by Peter Bowles, known for his Richard DeVere in TV's To the Manor Born.
Volume 16, which features two episodes, starts with "Rumpole and the Bright Seraphim," in which Rumpole goes to a court-martial in Germany to defend a soldier who murdered his unpleasant sergeant. Next, in "Rumpole and the Barrow Boy," Rumpole defends Nigel Timson against charges of insider trading. Later, Henry and Dianne, both clerks at chambers, contemplate eloping to Australia.
Typical of British drama, production values are low while the caliber of scriptwriting and acting is unsurpassed. A rare example of a television serial that is as appealing and engaging on its 10th viewing as it was on its first. --Erik Macki
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