The D.A. (1971 TV series)

The D.A. is an American half-hour legal drama that aired Fridays at 8:00-8:30 pm on NBC for the 1971-72 season. It ran from September 17, 1971 to January 7, 1972 and was replaced by the more successful Sanford and Son the following week. The show was packaged by Jack Webb's Mark VII Limited for Universal Television and is not to be confused with a show Webb produced in 1959 with a similar name, The D.A.'s Man, which starred John Compton in the lead role.

The D.A.
Robert Conrad as Paul Ryan
GenreLegal drama
Created byHarold Jack Bloom
Written byStephen J. Cannell
Robert A. Cinader
Robert C. Dennis
Sidney Morse
Directed byAlan Crosland, Jr.
Dennis Donnelly
Harry Harris
Paul Krasny
Harry Morgan
Hollingsworth Morse
Ozzie Nelson
Alex Nicol
Boris Sagal
Jack Webb
StarringRobert Conrad
Harry Morgan
Ned Romero
Julie Cobb
Theme music composerNelson Riddle
Composer(s)Frank Comstock
Nelson Riddle
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes15
Executive producer(s)Jack Webb
Producer(s)Robert Forward
Running time24 mins.
Production company(s)Mark VII Limited
Universal Television
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 17, 1971 (1971-09-17) 
January 7, 1972 (1972-01-07)


The D.A. starred Robert Conrad as Deputy District Attorney Paul Ryan, a tough-minded, hard-hitting prosecutor in Los Angeles County who was assisted by criminal investigator Bob Ramirez (Ned Romero). He prosecuted all types of cases under the watchful eye of his supervisor, Chief Deputy District Attorney H. M. "Staff" Stafford (Harry Morgan, who directed at least one episode himself). His opponent was usually Public Defender Katherine Benson (Julie Cobb). During the courtroom segments Ryan also provided a voice-over narration (like Dragnet), which brought the audience in on legal jargon and court procedures and allowed there to be less exposition in the dialogue, which was necessary due to the program's brevity, as most legal dramas have episodes twice the length of that of The D.A..

This program, however, is probably less known for its own storylines than for its lack of station clearances. Several NBC affiliates refused to air the program (mainly because it ran against ABC's Brady Bunch), choosing instead to take the time period for themselves (usually filling it with syndicated programs). Because of the station defections, NBC cancelled The D.A. in mid-season and replaced it the following week with the highly successful Sanford and Son.

Robert Forward produced the show, which was spun off from two TV-movies produced by Webb's production company, Mark VII Ltd., Murder One from 1969 and Conspiracy to Kill from 1971, both of which fictionalized cases prosecuted by Vincent Bugliosi, world-famous as the prosecutor of Charles Manson. Bugliosi served as technical advisor on both of the pilot films. In his account of the Manson prosecution, Helter Skelter, Bugliosi stated that Conrad modeled the Ryan character on Bugliosi.

A two-part cross-over episode began on another Webb show, Adam-12, in which officers Malloy (Martin Milner) and Reed (Kent McCord) made an arrest. In the follow-up episode from The D.A., Ryan handled the eventual prosecution. Co-star Morgan also accompanied Webb's Joe Friday character on the 1967-70 version of Dragnet as Officer Bill Gannon; during the next two seasons, he appeared on Mark VII's Hec Ramsey.

In 1990, producer Dick Wolf dusted off the half-investigation, half-trial format of The D.A. and modified it for his hour-long detective drama Law & Order by eliminating the narration but utilizing instead a Dragnet-style dialog between characters. The D.A. was not the first broadcast network series to use the format: Arrest and Trial's 90-minute episodes predate The D.A. by eight years.

Four episodes of the series were combined into a feature-length TV-movie called Confessions of the DA Man. "The People vs. Saydo" was used as the basic plot, and, while Ryan is attempting to get a friend of the defendant to testify, describes previous cases to try to illustrate the importance of testifying. The cases he recounts are "The People vs. Slovik" because the witness's idealism reminds Ryan of the attorney he faced in that case, "The People vs. Fowler" to illustrate the importance of testifying even when it's difficult (as in the case of the rape victim), and "The People vs. Walsh" to illustrate the dangers faced by police in their daily jobs. The film first aired January 20, 1978 as a CBS Late Movie.[1]


TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
The D.A.: Murder OneBoris SagalHarold Jack BloomDecember 6, 1969 (1969-12-06)
It's up to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Paul Ryan to prove that Mary Brokaw, a highly skilled nurse, caused the deaths of numerous patients by administering lethal overdoses of insulin.
The D.A.: Conspiracy to KillPaul KrasnyStanford WhitmoreJanuary 8, 1971 (1971-01-08)
An old case comes to life again when new evidence causes Ryan to reopen a case he's already won, where the supposedly innocent victim now appears to be the mastermind behind a murder.


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"The People vs. Drake"September 17, 1971 (1971-09-17)
Even though the father of a little girl has admitted to drowning his daughter, it's up to Ryan to show that it was premeditated murder.
2"The People vs. Hendry"September 24, 1971 (1971-09-24)
Whether or not a suspect's confession is admissible is what will make or break a case of homicide.
3"The People vs. Gayda"October 1, 1971 (1971-10-01)
A law enforcement officer comes under scrutiny because of the number and type of deals he makes with the criminals he arrests.
4"The People vs. Saydo"October 8, 1971 (1971-10-08)

A student radical is arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate the law governing the control of a deadly weapon.

Note: This episode concludes a crossover with Adam-12 that begins in that series episode, "The Radical".
5"The People vs. Edwards"October 15, 1971 (1971-10-15)
A trial's outcome hinges on the testimony of a woman against a drug pusher, but her own substance-induced emotional instability may undo the D.A.'s case.
6"The People vs. Slovik"October 22, 1971 (1971-10-22)
A misdemeanor case of petty theft is taking up an inordinate amount of court time because the defendant's attorney (Tim Matheson) refuses to compromise despite the defendant's clear guilt.
7"The People vs. Lindsey"November 5, 1971 (1971-11-05)
Deputy D.A. Paul Ryan and the District Attorney's Office are finding out just how difficult it is to get a conviction in a case of alleged child molestation.
8"The People vs. Barrington"November 12, 1971 (1971-11-12)
Things start to go south for Ryan's case when the District Attorney's main witness shows signs of a coming nervous breakdown. Directed by Ozzie Nelson.
9"The People vs. Swammerdam"November 19, 1971 (1971-11-19)
Illegal offshore oil dumping has become a major environmental problem, and the D.A.'s office starts working night and day to catch the violators.
10"The People vs. Fowler"November 26, 1971 (1971-11-26)
A woman is raped by a hooded assailant. Ryan's case depends on whether or not she can positively identify him without having ever seen his face.
11"The People vs. Howard"December 3, 1971 (1971-12-03)
Just when Ryan declares a case ready to close, another person comes forward and confesses to the same crime, throwing the whole first case out the window.
12"The People vs. Nelson"December 10, 1971 (1971-12-10)
A man and woman have brought a case against another man, charging him with robbery. But Ryan is finding out that there is more to this than meets the eye as a strange relationship between the three unfolds.
13"The People vs. Whitehead"December 17, 1971 (1971-12-17)
Ryan has to tread carefully but can't shrink back in the prosecution of a public official accused of corruption and extortion.
14"The People vs. Walsh"December 24, 1971 (1971-12-24)
There is no statute of limitations when it comes to a murder case, and Ryan now faces having to prosecute a murder that happened twenty years ago.
15"The People vs. Boley"January 7, 1972 (1972-01-07)
A heartless furniture salesman who takes advantage of the poor and needy becomes Ryan's next target for prosecution.

Later TV episodes

Some episodes were later re-released in 1978 as a two-hour TV movie Confessions of a DA Man which aired on January 20, 1978.[2][3]


  1. The CBS Late Movie
  2. 7?V, J. C. (1978, Jan 20). The TV column. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. Other 24 -- no title. (1978, Jan 20). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from


  • Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (2003) ISBN 0-345-45542-8
  • TV Guide Guide to TV 2006 (2006) ISBN 0-7607-7572-9
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