Murder One
Season Two

Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Mary McCormack, Michael Hayden, J.C. MacKenzie and DB Woodside
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP 39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 18 October 2004

It's all change at the offices of Hoffman and Associates. In an effort to save his marriage, and family, Ted Hoffman has left the firm and is travelling in Europe with Annie and Lizzie. Lisa and Lila have also left the firm. Successful prosecution attorney, Jimmy Wyler, disappointed that he's been passed over for promotion walks out of his office and manages to land the job as head of Hoffman and Associates. But can a successful prosecution attorney make the transition to the other side of the law - defending instead of prosecuting?...

Despite the ridiculous situation under which this season starts - would a company's boss really just up and leave? And can't his team manage without him? Why is it that they seem to be in such bad financial shape? - the second season of Murder One has a fairly promising beginning. Unlike season one, season two doesn't just follow one trial. Instead, it follows three different cases - all of which start and end at different junctures.

The first case concerns a woman, Sharon Rooney, who has confessed to murdering her former lover, the governor of California Tom Van Allan, and his current mistress. Jimmy Wyler has his work cut out for him trying to prove that Rooney didn't commit these murders - especially as she admitted that she was guilty to him, and then later very verbally while in court.

The second case sees Ricky Latrell, a basketball player, employing Wyler's services to ensure he is not accused of the murder of his team's owner.

The final case, which also makes for the most dramatic piece of television out of the three, sees Wyler reluctantly agree to represent Clifford Banks, branded by the press as the 'Street Sweeper'. Banks justifies the murders he has committed of violent criminals - men he decided have not paid their debt to society and are still a danger to the public. Simultaneously hailed and reviled as a vigilante striving for justice, the now incarcerated Banks causes major complications for his defence team as he revels in the media frenzy surrounding his case.

For the first eight episodes the action moves along at a breakneck pace and I thought that season two had managed to crack the format that had ensured that the first season was compulsive viewing. While I had serious reservations about the producers replacing the Yul Bryner-ish Daniel Benzali with the Al Pacino-like Anthony LaPaglia, it didn't take long to warm to him - once the weak plot device, that had him as a bit of a loser, badly in debt and a little corrupt, was forgotten about

Once this all settled down it was like Wyler had always been the head of Hoffman and Associates. I was just starting to enjoy how everything was unravelling when the producers wrapped up the first crime case. Goodbye Ms Rooney, let's move onto the b-story (the Latrell case) to carry the show for a few episodes. Oh, bad mistake. This story hadn't been developed properly in order for it to take over the reigns and so we have a couple of episodes where all the team is dealing with is the Latrell case. Scene after scene set in the court room starts to get very boring, very quickly.

The sad thing about this is the fact that the Latrell case does end up being powerful viewing towards its conclusion, but there really wasn't enough material there to allow it to be stretched out over a few episodes as the only story.

The final case elevates the show from average to very good. Pruitt Taylor Vince is incredibly believable as the unhinged serial killer who strongly believes in dishing out his own style of punishment.

As with season one, there isn't a single actor who doesn't deliver 100%. But, again, I wanted to single out the wonderful Barbara Bosson as the tenacious prosecuting attorney Miriam Grasso. Without her presence many of the court room scenes would have been unbearable to watch.

The only real extra on this collection is a featurette that includes recent interviews with some of the main actors. This helps to get a feel for the background to the show - how the actors were waiting on a week by week basis to see how they had done in the ratings. And, being up against Friends, we now know that they didn't do as well as expected.

It's a great shame that this show never got a third season. What was a very entertaining show lived too fast and died too young. Now that's a crime worth looking into.

Darren Rea

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