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Crown Court (1972-84)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Crown Court (1972-84)
Granada for ITV, tx. 18/10/1972-29/3/1984
879 x 30 min eps in 11 series, colour
Directors includeStephen Butcher
 Laurence Moody
Writers includeDavid Fisher
 David Blunt
 Bruce Stewart
Executive ProducersMichael Cox
 June Howson

Cast: Peter Wheeler (court reporter); Charles Keating (James Elliott QC); William Mervyn (Mr Justice Campbell); Terrence Hardiman (Stephen Harvesty); John Barron (Mr Justice Mitchenor); Richard Wilson (Jeremy Parsons QC)

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The trials of Fulchester Crown Court, from the cases for the defence and the prosecution to the jury's verdict.

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The popular courtroom drama series Crown Court ran on ITV from 1972 to 1984. The twist was that though the cases were fictional, the jurors were real people drawn from a Granada TV afternoon audience, a hybrid format that feels strangely contemporary in the modern age of 'reality TV' and observational documentaries. The show was broadcast three afternoons a week, each story falling neatly into three episodes of prosecution, defence and verdict.

Crown Court was based on an earlier Granada series The Verdict is Yours (ITV, 1958-1963), though in this earlier version, the shows were unscripted. Anglia Television tried to revamp the hybrid format in 1996 with its show The Verdict, however only four episodes were broadcast.

It is not difficult to understand the ratings success of Crown Court. Television has always benefited from a public appetite for human drama and an interest in court trials, and these cases tackled difficult social issues such as domestic violence, drug abuse, murder, arson, infanticide and espionage.

The series was a training ground for emerging talent in directors, for example Roland Joffé, Gordon Flemyng and Michael Chapman. Many actors who would become famous found themselves in the docks - Ben Kingsley, Bob Hoskins, Michael Elphick and Pauline Quirke, to name a few. However, the greatest challenge was for the new writers who were expected to work within very strict rules. Howard Baker, producer of the 1983 series, described the task as "like ballet dancing in corsets". Not only had the writers to build stories with due regard to accuracy and authenticity, the scripts had to be evenly balanced to maintain the tension between guilt or innocence - often the actors did not even know the outcome - and presented with clarity and concentration. Writers such as Dilip Hiro, Martin Stellman, Franco Rosso and Ian Curteis went on to write award-winning drama for television and film.

In the episode 'Ju Ju Landlord' (1976), novelist Buchi Emecheta, in her first script for television, presents a case offering a rare insight into aspects of Nigerian culture and community. The tale of black magic and harassment is no more sensationalist than other Crown Court stories; what is remarkable is that the producers manage to cast the show with black barristers, witnesses and a mixed jury which must have raised a few eyebrows in 1976.

Ann Ogidi

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Video Clips
Complete episode: 'The Ju-Ju Landlord' Part 1 (7:41)
Extract: Cross-examination (7:12)
Part 2 (15:56)
Part 3 (8:00)
Part 4 (15:42)
Six Days of Justice (1972-75)
Allen, Jim (1926-99)
Cameron, Earl (1917- )
Curteis, Ian (1935-)
Elphick, Michael (1946-2002)
Jeffrey, Peter (1929-1999)
La Plante, Lynda (1943-)
Malik, Art (1953-)
Munroe, Carmen (1932-)
Walker, Rudolph (1939-)
Black TV Writers
Legal Drama