Street Legal (Canadian TV series)
C. David Johnson
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||124|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original network||CBC Television|
|Original release||January 6, 1987 – November 6, 1994|
Street Legal was the longest-running one-hour scripted drama in the history of Canadian television, holding the record for twenty years before being surpassed by Heartland's 125th episode on October 18, 2014.
Street Legal focused on the professional and private lives of the partners in a small Toronto, Ontario law firm. The primary stars were Sonja Smits, Eric Peterson and C. David Johnson, and the cast also included Julie Khaner, Albert Schultz, Cynthia Dale, Maria del Mar, Ron Lea, Anthony Sherwood and Diane Polley.
The series was distinctively Canadian, in the use of Canadian court customs and procedures. Much of the show's music was composed by Eric Robertson who was nominated for a Gemini Award in 1987 for his work on the show.
Cast and characters
- Sonja Smits — Carrington "Carrie" Barr
- C. David Johnson — Charles "Chuck" Tchobanian
- Eric Peterson — Leon Robinovitch
- Cynthia Dale — Olivia Novak
- David James Elliott — Nick Del Gado
- Julie Khaner — Alana Newman Robinovitch
- Anthony Sherwood — Dillon Beck
- Albert Schultz — Rob Diamond
- Maria del Mar — Laura Crosby
- Ron Lea — Brian Malony
- Alison Sealy-Smith — Mercedes
In the early episodes, the show's three core characters were Carrie Barr (Smits), Leon Robinovitch (Peterson) and Chuck Tchobanian (Johnson), partners in the small downtown Toronto law firm of Barr, Robinovitch and Tchobanian. The three did not necessarily always see eye to eye on things: Tchobanian was a flashy, confident and conservative lawyer who was most interested in taking high-profile cases that would get his name into the media; Robinovitch was an activist labour lawyer who believed in defending the little guy and mounted a campaign for Mayor of Toronto during the series run; Barr was a soft-spoken and initially naïve young lawyer who was sometimes forced to mediate between her more opinionated partners. According to series producer Maryke McEwen, "if you want to label the characters I'd call them Liberal, Conservative and NDP."
Characters introduced later included Mercedes (Sealy-Smith), the firm's no-nonsense office manager; Olivia Novak (Dale), an aggressive, risk-taking new lawyer with the firm who was a foil for Carrie and a love interest for Chuck; Alana Newman (Khaner), a judge who was married to Leon; Rob Diamond (Schultz), who joined the firm as a junior lawyer; Dillon Beck (Sherwood), a crown prosecutor who married Carrie; and Laura Crosby (del Mar), a new lawyer who joined the firm after Carrie was killed by a drunk driver.
The original series pilot aired on CBC Television in 1986 as Shellgame, a television film written by William Deverell which starred Brenda Robins as a lawyer defending accused murderer André (Germain Houde). The film was not well received by audiences or critics, however, and the project was retooled and recast before premiering as a series in 1987.
The series debuted on January 6, 1987, with a six-episode run that season. Maryke McEwen was the executive producer. Early critical response to the series frequently compared it to the contemporaneous American series L.A. Law, with some reviewers even coining the dismissive epithet T.O. Law. The series then returned for a longer second season in September 1987.
From the third through the seventh seasons, Brenda Greenberg was first senior producer, then executive producer, with Nada Harcourt taking over for the final season.
The show's last regular weekly episode aired on February 18, 1994.
Production wrapped up with the two-hour television film Last Rights, which aired on November 6, 1994. Loosely based on the case of Sue Rodriguez, an assisted suicide activist who died a week before Street Legal's final regular episode aired, the film centred on Olivia's criminal trial after helping a terminally ill friend (Brent Carver) commit suicide. The film drew 1.6 million viewers.
The 2019 revival of Street Legal will centre on Olivia Novak, joining a small boutique law office, RDL Legal, after losing her job with a powerful Bay Street firm. In addition to Dale reprising her original role, the cast will also include Cara Ricketts, Steve Lund and Yvonne Chapman. Peterson and Sherwood are slated to make guest appearances reprising their roles as Leon Robinovitch and Dillon Beck, but are not part of the full-time cast. The series is set to premiere March 4, 2019 on CBC Television
- Cynthia Dale — Olivia Novak
- Cara Ricketts — Lilly Rue
- Steve Lund — Adam Darling
- Yvonne Chapman — Mina Lee
Bernie Zukerman (Remedy, King) and Bruce M. Smith (19-2) are executive producers. Bruce M. Smith is showrunner. Cynthia Dale and Rayne Zukerman are producers. The series is set for a winter 2019 premiere.
- "'Street Legal' reboot among new shows in CBC's 2018/19 lineup". National Post, May 24, 2018.
- "Eric Peterson will reprise his Street Legal role — minus the ‘big hair’". Canadian Press, September 12, 2018.
- "Heartland's record setting 125th episode". CBC. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
- "'Toronto' Law joins the ranks". Windsor Star, January 6, 1987.
- "An effortless attempt to weld Miami's vice to Toronto's virtue: Glitz and gimmicks not enough to save Shellgame". The Globe and Mail, January 4, 1986.
- "CBC offers last year of plenty". Toronto Star, July 10, 1986.
- "No defence offered in support of CBC's Street Legal show". Vancouver Sun, January 6, 1987.
- "Give Street Legal a chance - it's not bad". Montreal Gazette, September 25, 1997.
- "Actors heading out in new directions as Street comes to end". Financial Post, February 26, 1994.
- "Street Legal finale provides an argument for an appeal". Toronto Star, November 6, 1994.
- "Street Legal fans loyal to the end". Toronto Star, November 11, 1994.