Murder One
Season One

Starring: Daniel Benzali, Mary McCormack and Michael Hayden
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP 39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 06 September 2004

Prominent Los Angeles defence attorney Theodore Hoffman has taken on the biggest case of his career. Hoffman is defending bad-boy TV & movie star Neil Avedon against the charge of murdering teenager Jessica Costello. Jessica was discovered strangled in a building owned by wealthy businessman Richard Cross who was originally charged with the murder, but successfully defended by Hoffman. As the case twists and turns, it transpires that Jessica was involved in lurid affairs with numerous prominent men, who have now all been cast into suspicion...

The first season of Murder One makes for powerful viewing. It was also a risky gamble on the part of the producers. Would viewers tune in week after week to watch a single court case as it unravelled? While there are parallels to be drawn with the O. J. Simpson trial, which was also unfolding around the same time Murder One was being screened, the fact that it was screened once a week - not to mention that it was aired at the same time as ER was being broadcast on NBC - meant that the viewing figures were never quite what they should have been.

Episode one sees the discovery of fifteen-year-old Jessica Costello's body in an apartment block owned by wealthy businessman Richard Cross. Cross is arrested in connection with the murder, but released when it becomes clear that actor Neil Avedon, who was dating Costello, is now the primary suspect. With a history of alleged violence against women and a serious cocaine problem, Avedon protests his innocence and defence attorney Theodore Hoffman promises him he will do everything in his power to prove his innocence - and attempts to do just that for the shows 23 episodes.

And that, in a nutshell, is the plot for the first season of Murder One. When you strip the narrative down to the bare bones it sounds extremely dull. Thankfully there is much more to it and the writers drag the storyline out, (although it never feels like the material is being stretched to the limit) neatly padded with plenty of story threads concerning the partners of Hoffman's company and those who were involved in Costello's life. And, as you'd expect, the writers keep you guessing as to who is the killer right up until the last episode.

Daniel Benzali is not your average leading man. Slightly overweight, bald and well over the usually acceptable 30 years of age, he seems an odd choice for the man of the moment. But it works - his acting is outstanding. Other notable roles include Stanley Tucci as Hoffman's friend, and murder suspect, Richard Cross and Barbara Bosson as Hoffman's Nemesis in court, Miriam Grasso. But in all honesty there isn't one bad actor in the whole of this show.

There are also plenty of actors in cameo roles who you'll probably recognise from their sci-fi roles. Stanley Kamel, who plays psychiatrist Graham Lester, also played Kosinski in the season one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Where No One Has Gone Before. Gregory Itzin, who plays Roger Garfield, has also guest starred in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Enterprise and Joss Whedon's failed space show Firefly. And John de Lancie, who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, also turns in a nice cameo.

This collection is a little light on extras. There are audio commentaries on two of the episodes, a retrospective featurette that interviews the main characters and a mini featurette on the third season of 24. I also had a problem with the design of the DVD menus. For each DVD, the menu plays a selection of clips that show all the important plot developments that unfold on that disc. Not only does this spoil some of the plot twists, but the quality of the footage is also quite poor - the clips judder.

This is drama at it's most outstanding. The only crime here is that the show's second season changed the format, and the majority of the cast, and what was a promising series then managed to vanish without a trace.

Darren Rea

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