Joy of Sets: North Square

Ally McWho?

I’ve been watching Home Alone (1990) with my son, and it’s striking how you have to remind yourself that a world of ubiquitous mobile phone usage is relatively new. The plot would fall at the first hurdle if Kevin could have called his (frankly criminally careless) folks on one. I’m also enjoying revisiting Frasier (1993-2004), which is still sharp as a tack and well worth returning to, but Niles’ vast, clunky cellphone with an aerial sticking out of it clearly dates series 2.

And I’ve been re-watching the excellent 2000 legal drama, North Square. The characters do use mobile phones a little, and for exchanges of critical information at times, but you can see that the culture of using them is still in its infancy. Plus the phones are of the boxy Nokia variety we all once used. I could imagine that, if they ever make a second series, the magnificent Machiavellian senior clerk Peter McLeish would be plotting evil schemes and controlling the world with an iPhone. The other thing that’s really noticeable about North Square, and what dates it in an interesting way, is that there is A LOT of smoking inside bars and conference rooms, especially by McLeish.

I believe North Square is coming out on DVD sometime in 2012, but for the moment, the whole terrifically gripping ten episodes can be  watched on 4OD and I’d really recommend it. It’s written with great wit and class by Peter Moffat (who also wrote Silk in 2011, another barrister orientated series starring Maxine Peake).

I confess to loving lawyer/courtroom dramas. Boston Legal,  Murder One, Damages, Yes, even Ally McBeal if you’ve got Robert Downey Jnr to dilute her. I love the theme tune of North Square, by The Clash I think. I like the fact that it’s not London-based. It’s set in Leeds, and based in chambers run, with utter, glorious manipulative ruthlessness by head clerk, Peter McLeish.

There’s gangland intrigue and there are also some really brilliant strong, stroppy, sexy female characters, so the power politics are huge fun. There’s a little of This Life feel about it, in the sense that you’ve got a bunch of smart barristers (plus clerks, plus competing pupils) lying, cheating, chatting each other up, arguing, hitting each other, having sex and generally getting into mischief.

Peter McLeish is played by one of my favourite actors of all time, Phil Davis. He’s been in lots of things over the years, including Sherlock Holmes. He has an amazing face, and is always utterly compelling.

But there’s lots of talent to choose from here, including the magnificent Helen McRory, Rupert Penry-Jones, James (‘Cutting It’) Midgley and Kevin McKidd (who went on to be very successful in, amongst other things, Grey’s Anatomy).

North Square won a number of awards and it’s terrific. I’m puzzled as to why they didn’t make another series.

Posted by Inkface

2 Comments

Filed under Joy of Sets

2 responses to “Joy of Sets: North Square

  1. Jo

    Did you ever watch New Street Law with John Hannah? That was quite a fun lawyer/courtroom show, while it lasted.

  2. inkface

    No, not come across it. I’ll keep a look out for that, thanks.

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