The Defenders was the most directly political show in television history, and it managed this trick mostly without being didactic. The central characters, father-and-son lawyers Lawrence and Kenneth Preston (played by the indomitable E.G. Marshall and a young Robert Reed, respectively) took on cases that examined the health of the American republic in the Kennedy era, looking at issues that could have seemed tiny in scope but, instead, became important considerations of just how much elasticity the Constitution was meant to bear.
Issues included everything from what constitutes pornography to civil rights questions to a woman’s right to an abortion, and though the show occasionally fell under protest, it was also wildly popular with both critics and audiences. Marshall won an Emmy, as did the show’s writers for all four seasons of its run. It ranked as highly as 18th in the Nielsens. It was very much a show of the moment.