Courtroom drama plus lots of ambition, scheming and sex. It’s not surprising there are so many successful TV shows with legal settings. Glenn Close in Damages wins the goddess of deviousness prize for me, and James Spader in Boston Legal pretty much covers sex. I confess to also enjoying quite a lot of Ally McBeal especially when Robert Downey Jnr came on board. The 1995 Steve Bochco series, Murder One, was terrific in its day. And it was the opening ‘fractured screen’ credit sequence of Murder One that came to mind when I first started watching the BBC barrister drama Silk.
Silk’s credits feature images fractured by wafting strands of the pink ‘silk’ that surround barristers’ briefs. But despite being as big a fan of Maxine Peake as the rest of the nation, I was a bit dubious about Silk after the first episode. I really like the Lincolns Inn/Middle Temple setting – I used to walk through those beautiful gardens on my way to work. And I do so enjoy of the apparently posh world of chambers where it’s really the working class clerks, who have to call everyone Sir or Miss, who really have a firm grip on the goolies of everyone and everything that goes on. But, on first viewing, it all seemed a bit too much of a barrister-by-numbers show, and frankly I’ve been sulking ever since the superlative North Square wasn’t recommissioned (which also had Rupert Penry-Jones in it, as well as the wonderful Phil Davies playing the clerk role).
But then I realised they are both written by Steven Moffat and started paying proper attention. The plotting, scheming and general shenanigans, inside chambers and without, are coming along nicely. I’m still adjusting to seeing Neil Stuke out of an apron, since I only knew him from his impressive stint on Celebrity MasterChef. In this, he’s pretty scary as the morally ambivalent head clerk of chambers. What we have at the heart of Silk is two barristers – gritty, northern Martha Costello (Peake) and posh boy Clive (Penry-Jones), both of whom are fiercely competing to make silk, ie become QCs, at an age that would never happen in real life, as I understand it. They need to keep on the right side of the head clerk because it is he who has the power to allocate them the right cases which would give them their best chance. It’s hinted that Penry-Jones’ Harrovian background will do him no harm. And they both have cute pupils of the opposite sex. Oh yes, and Martha is pregnant. I won’t say who the father is, in case you haven’t caught up with this on iPlayer yet.
The law is sort of incidental, but it’s all most enjoyable.
Posted by Inkface