The Associates (1979–1980)
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The First Day 



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Episode cast overview:
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Emerson Marshall
Martin Short ... Tucker Kerwin
Alley Mills ... Leslie Dunn
Joe Regalbuto ... Eliot Streeter
Shelley Smith ... Sara James
Tim Thomerson ... Johnny Danko
John Getz ... William Simmons
Madelyn Cates Madelyn Cates ... Mrs. Dunn
Sandra McCabe Sandra McCabe ... Barbara Simmons
Adrienne Hampton Adrienne Hampton ... Ginger
Heath Kaye Heath Kaye ... Billy


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Release Date:

23 September 1979 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Leslie Dunn: [Emerson Marshall has just reminisced about his old girlfriends Margaret and Lydia, whom he married] Oh. Mr. Marshall, out of curiosity, what ever happened to Margaret?
Emerson Marshall: Margaret? Oh, she's Prime Minister of England.
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User Reviews

What Happens When 'the Good Fight' is Left to Neophytes?
30 January 2019 | by JasonDanielBakerSee all my reviews

As slots for a pair of partnerships are filled at the prestigious Wall Street law firm Bass & Marshall (Employing roughly 150 attorneys though we only see but a few at any given time) three bright new young associates begin their first day.

Idaho-raised Harvard man Tucker Kerwin (Martin Short) bears philosophical similarities to New Yorker and Columbia grad Leslie Dunn (Alley Mills). Both are idealistic and quite frankly, meek, yet somehow each ended up practising law on Wall Street - ample avenue for comedy immediately. The third associate is Stanford's Sara James (Shelley Smith) - a bottle-blonde me-firster used to getting her own way who leaves the audience with little doubt that this morally ambiguous (At best) milieu is the natural habitat of a shark in Givenchy like her.

Tucker and Leslie are immediately tasked with J & R Demolition V Our Lady of Mercy - a case in which they have to argue in favour of a property developer's right to tear down a 200 year old cathedral so that it may blight the skyline by erecting another condominium only partners and well-heeled clients of Bass & Marshall would be able to afford to live in. It is the first assignment of many that might cost Tucker and Leslie the noblesse oblige they somehow managed to keep going in.

Hard-working professional William Simmons (John Getz) contrasts with rapacious go-getter Eliot Streeter (Joe Regalbuto) as both are up for partnership. When it suddenly becomes clear that only one partnership placement will be on offer the differences between the two men appear more pronounced.

Streeter desperately curries favor. Simmons - a man we see shreds of morality in, one who treats the young associates with more care, quietly awaits the decision hoping that his work will speak for itself and perhaps, just perhaps wonders if maybe his business-like manner and gentlemanly composure might somehow be held as points in HIS column.

From that we can see Tucker and Leslie aren't the only naive people working there. Part of the reason Tucker is even there is because Simmons was insistent and twisted Streeter's arm when they were tasked with recruiting and Tucker showed his own shreds of morality that gave Streeter pause.

When Streeter gets it, Simmons packs up. Streeter acts like he feels terrible because he probably does. He and Simmons are friends. While Streeter was desperate to make partner he didn't know it would cost him a valued co-worker. Streeter is more cad than villain. From what we have seen he'll get over it pretty quickly. But yes, he will miss his friend.

Leaving Bass & Marshall is not as bad for Simmons as he, and we in the audience, might have thought. But Tucker and Leslie are still there with no one around to show them right and wrong if anyone on staff even could remember what that is or see it as meaningful. Ironically Simmons seems to know right from wrong better as he walks away from the firm.

So the first episode presents us with John Getz (A role well within the range of Charles Frank or Robert Pine) formulating an exceptional characterization which brilliantly sends up the way in which All-American lawyer/heroes were portrayed on TV. Tall, square-jawed and well-groomed in a three-piece suit we are meant to view a reflection of the best of the legal profession and a perhaps reflection of ourselves if we had become lawyers.

But what that means here is he just talks a good game i.e. is human enough to mention about how conflicted he is about J & R Demolition V Our Lady of Mercy - HIS case which requires him to try to make a nun crack on the witness stand. (Remember I said SHREDS of morality).

In the telling of this early entry in the short-lived series the audience is introduced to a kind of scale of humanity that is not particularly inspiring. Characters at the top and on the bottom are important in giving us this scale of this absurd interpretation of reality.

On the bottom is Johnny Danko (Tim Thomerson) - mail-room clerk/coffee go-fer & general labourer. He is someone the viewer might pity right up until the coarseness of his nature and proud lack of work ethic become evident which they do all the time. Let us suppose Johnny needs legal help of some kind. Think he can afford the representation of the firm he works for? Whatever foibles he may have the system too often rules against him due to lack of means - not whether it is just.

On top is Senior Partner Emerson Marshall (Wilfrid Hyde-White) who is the type of decadent authority figure the world has too much of. Whilst appearing decrepit to the point of near senility he is a man with an extremely long track record of success in his field. He has forgotten most of it particularly when he might draw upon it to impart something useful. Instead he rambles and by the time he has nothing left to say he often can't even remember what he was talking about. Or can he? He shows flashes not only of cognizance but wisdom. Conscience? Not at first glance.

What is here is a profound statement on the subjective morality of the law as it is applied with every kind of funny one-liner any sitcom viewer could want. The source material was the novel of the same name written by John Jay Osborn Jr. - noted legal scholar and author of the book The Paper Chase which was made into an award-winning film. The creator of the show was James L.Brooks (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets). The writing itself was deservedly nominated for Prime-Time Emmys. The cast is composed of actors amongst the most beloved of any on American TV.

So why didn't anyone watch?

Well. To begin with it is real downbeat. As upbeat and warm as the actors are what is shown here is the darkest of dark comedy - one in which good people have chosen to genuinely apply themselves in service of an entity on the wrong side of nearly everything and apply vigorous use of the disproportionate influence their positions and corporate clients give to them in walking upon the downtrodden.

Hilarious right? Someone with an edgy and cynical sense of humour will find a lot to like. Others will find it too easy to take too seriously. Hence part of my speculation as to why viewers looked the other way.

Evil wins is a recurring theme of the series. Not because good people do nothing. But rather because good people try to do something and fail so spectacularly that it is fodder for laughs. Are you that edgy? TV critics at the time WERE and heaped effusive praise upon this show that nevertheless evidently failed to translate into viewership.

That it was on opposite One Day At A Time (A show upon which no nefarious deed got a free pass even it meant awkward moments) on CBS and CHiPS on NBC were other reasons. Both of it's competitors were popular. One of it's competitors actually made a show for people who could think.

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