Classic Video Showplace


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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.   Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

RCN-TV is kicking off its “Spring Programming Schedule” this month with the return of popular television shows and other programs making their first-ever appearances on our channel.

Today we look at Public Defender.

 One of the popular trends in 1940s radio shows was dramas featuring public servants’ adventures, fighting crime and righting wrongs.  Insurance investigators like Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, real-life police stories like Dragnet, procedural detectives like Pat Novak and Richard Diamond and other similarly successful shows spilled into the early 1950s before radio programs started giving way to television.

While many of those programs never got past producing a failed pilot episode, one show that did make a successful leap to the small screen was Public Defender.

Defender is based on the idea of a client who can’t afford a lawyer to represent them in a criminal trial.  Bart Matthews is the counselor assigned to help people in need and encounters lawsuits significantly beyond your typical cases.

Matthews was portrayed by Reed Hadley, who had a very successful film career in the late 1930s and 40s (including playing the titular character in the movie, Zorro’s Fighting Legion).  Hadley had a number of roles playing characters involved on either side of the law in criminal dramas and had just finished starring in the very popular TV show, Racket Squad, from 1950-1953.  His voice may also be familiar to more recent audiences as he narrated a number of documentaries produced in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Phillip Morris Corporation, who sponsored many of the decade’s top programs in the 1950s, including I Love Lucy, took an immediate interest in Public Defender and became their top sponsor, with Revlon adding their name as the alternate sponsor.  The show was scheduled in the very competitive Thursdays at 10pm timeslot and ran up against other stalwarts from both the radio and early television eras — The Lux Video Theatre and the Kraft Television Theatre.

Although the show ran for just under two full seasons (producing 70 episodes), there were a number of notable guest stars on the program, including future stars on both the big and small screens…

See if you can spot some of these future stars as Bart Matthews attempts to exonerate wrongly accused individuals.  Public Defender makes its RCN-TV debut on our new spring programming lineup; tune in (or set your DVRs) for Wednesday evenings at 8:30pm and Fridays afternoons at 2:30pm.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.