Category Archives: Legal dramas

The Good Wife – 7th & final season

alan-cumming_240Given I’ve just realised that this is the final season of The Good Wife, it’s probably not worth a whole load of speculation about the one irksome thing about this otherwise fine programme. Why would Alicia remain ‘the good wife’ to cheating politician Peter Florrick this long after they separated?

Plot device, you all cry, and rightly so. As Winnicott would say, good enough.

I like the fact that it’s called The Good Wife, when actually, nobody in this show is ever simply good (or bad). Lots of shades of grey here, characters are complicated, greedy, scheming and utterly splendid, often all at once.

So, we’re a few episodes into the final series being shown on More 4. And it looks like it’s going to be FUN. Continue reading

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Law and Order UK: Breaking Brooks

Slid back into its slot for one last time after an absence of several weeks, the momentum had been somewhat lost since the dramatic events of the previous Law and Order episode, in which Wes was killed and DS Ronnie Brooks faced a struggle coming to terms with events.

In this episode (which has now been confirmed as the last, as Bradley Walsh is leaving the role), the force faced a particularly challenging case of a stabbing committed by a fifteen year old caught up in the dark world of street gangs.

law and orderVarious mishaps, including insufficient forensic evidence and a particularly rottweiler duty solicitor, led to the prime suspect being released without charge twice, an injustice which began to affect Ronnie significantly given the lads’ constant taunts of him. As events came to a head and a gang of youths ended up being searched for knives, Ronnie claimed that the suspect made a gloating confession about the murder. We did not see this happen, but we did not have to as no viewer doubted Ronnie’s honesty. This is a character who has developed and led eight series of this drama and there was never any questions with the audience over who was telling the truth.   Continue reading

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Filed under Detective/police drama, Legal dramas

Law and Order UK: Criminally underrated

Nestled inconspicuously in the midweek 9pm slot, Law and Order UK is one of TV’s constants. Already eight seasons in, it’s a subtle staple of the schedules that rarely fails to deliver on all fronts. The format is quick and snappy, derived from a USA counterpart and, at times, the fast paced stories can seem rushed and contrived. However, the knowledge that a resolution to the mystery will become clear within the hour timeslot and we will see the plot unfold from the crime to the verdict and often beyond, is comforting.bradley-walsh

Law and Order UK does not pretend to be anything other than an hour of entertaining and easy to follow drama. There is no pretension here; a crime is committed, every character we meet will undoubtedly have played some vital part in the story (there is simply no time for many red herrings) and the police are a little bit too sharp in situations where the resolution can stretch the imagination. It doesn’t matter though; take Law and Order UK for what it is, and the hour flies by.

It is a little idealistic, usually painting the police and the prosecution team as heroic mavericks desperate only for the truth come out. Similarly, defence lawyers are painted as snarling and sneaky villains, searching for a loophole to get their crook off the hook. It’s a premise that works so long as you aren’t looking for a documentary.   Continue reading

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The Escape Artist: Perfect murder

david tennant the escape artist(Warning – contains spoilers, so turn away now if you haven’t seen the episode)

The third and final episode of The Escape Artist was strange. In a way, it was extremely satisfying to see the way that Will took control of things, and used his famed intelligence and acute legal mind to engineer the perfect revenge.

Looking back at the first episode, though, I’m not sure the climax lived up to the situation that had been set up. Liam Foyle was one of the most frightening villains I’ve seen in a long time. He carried that air of menace that Hannibal Lecter had in The Silence of the Lambs – you would be terrified to be alone with him. You’d be terrified just knowing he was in the world, out there somewhere.

toby kebbell the escape artistI expected a massive showdown between Foyle and Will – Foyle had shown such an aptitude for psychological torture – but when the confrontation came it was over fairly briefly. Foyle’s death was suitably nasty, with the camera in so close we could see little flecks of spit shooting up as he spluttered for air, and he did the usual monster thing of getting up for one last swing at our hero, but essentially he was dealt with far too easily.

david tennant escape artistIt came back to the title, I think. “The Escape Artist” is the kind of nickname that serial killers are given (Buffalo Bill, the Zodiac Killer), but in this case it applied to the hero, never-beaten defence lawyer Will Burton. He got the name because he could find a loophole or a way out of any difficult situation and win a case. The case he had to win in this episode was his own, defending himself against a charge of murder, which he did by planning the murder so well that the escape was already built in, even though it relied heavily on coincidences and implausibilities. In the end, it was Will’s story, and because Will was David Tennant it was never less than watchable and at times was completely gripping. I couldn’t help thinking it was a waste of a very scary villain, though.



Filed under Drama, Legal dramas

The Escape Artist: Just when you thought it was safe to catch the bus

escape artistSince The Escape Artist is a three-parter, I suppose we could call this episode the quiet movement. After the horror and shocks of last week’s opener, this one dealt with the aftermath of Kate’s death and its effect on Will and his son.

With Liam Foyle charged with the murder but very little actual evidence against him, it was going to take the finest legal mind in the country to get a conviction. The finest legal mind is, of course, Will – but as he’s a witness, he isn’t allowed to be part of the legal team.

Will is good at finding loopholes and he found a way round this problem as well. By secretly passing information to and fro a less high-flying member of his Chambers, he can be involved in the case without seeming to be involved.

Meanwhile Maggie Gardner, the second finest legal mind in the country, defending Foyle, gets the court to grant him bail. Like Will before her, she takes no pleasure in seeing Foyle go free and spends the rest of the episode being spooked by random sounds around her home.

The random sounds may have been Foyle, or they may not. He did have a busy episode, following Will’s son around in one very scary sequence and having a deranged rant at his solicitor in another. His alibi has been provided by a woman who seems to be completely in his thrall, and his treatment of her wasn’t nice at all.

But nobody died, because this was the quiet middle episode. Judging by the trailer for the final part, it looks like it’s all going to kick off next week. Will might get the justice he wants, but possibly not by legal means.

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The Escape Artist: Just when you thought it was safe to have a bubble bath

david tennant

David Tennant plays hot-shot successful barrister Will Burton in this three-part drama, the first episode of which was on BBC1 last night. Specialising in defence work, he’s never lost a case even though he knows this means that some guilty people are now walking free thanks to his efforts. He also knows his career has meant him neglecting his wife and son, which he tries to put right with cosy family trips to a country cottage and birthday parties at his swanky all-glass-and-concrete London home.

Then he gets extremely nasty suspected killer Liam Foyle to defend. It seems like an unwinnable case as there’s so much evidence against Foyle, but winning is Will’s middle name and he finds holes in the prosecution’s case and the trial collapses. Will knows that Foyle is guilty, though, so he doesn’t shake his hand.

And that’s where the horror begins. Foyle is apparently a man who doesn’t like being snubbed – frankly, he’s a complete psychopath – and he turns up at the Burtons’ holiday cottage and murders his (pregnant) wife. I don’t jump easily at things on TV, but I lost contact with my chair for a second when Foyle suddenly appeared at the bathroom window. This was even spookier when we discovered that the bathroom was on the first floor.

To further heap trouble on Will, Foyle is arrested and Will discovers that he’s going to be defended by Will’s old sparring partner, colleague and possibly ex-girlfriend Maggie (Sophie Okonedo), who resents always coming second to Will and fancies a go at defence work.

It was an interesting set-up with some genuinely scary moments. Toby Kebbell plays Foyle as a Michael Moon from EastEnders sort of psychopath – I kept seeing Steve John Shepherd in every twitch of the cheek and still, watchful pause. David Tennant is never less than brilliant. He started the episode all glossy and successful, and by the end he was a shattered, bereaved man finding the beliefs he’d formerly held at work (that everyone deserves a decent defence) coming back to haunt him.


Filed under Drama, Legal dramas

Silk: Bigwigs and gangsters

Sad that the marvellous first series of Homeland had come to an end, the only two shows I’ve been regularly tuning into recently are The Bridge and the exceptionally superb Simon Amstell vehicle, Grandma’s House.

I needed something else to distract me from the rigours of everyday life. Then along came the second series of Silk. I’m a sucker for legal dramas, and I’ll watch anything with Phil Davis. Then I saw Frances Barber on Saturday Kitchen Live saying she’d be in the new series. Love that woman.

The three characters at the heart of Silk are Martha Costello (now QC, played by Maxine Peake), fellow barrister, Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones, not QC, and not happy about playing second fiddle) and Senior Clerk at the Shoe Lane Chambers, Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke, last seen, by me, on Celebrity MasterChef). Continue reading


Filed under Legal dramas

Silk: Top briefs

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.

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Filed under Legal dramas