Tag Archives: Ashley Pharoah

Eternal Law: Don’t mess with a man wearing Egyptian cotton

You may remember how cross I was when the BBC decided not to recommission Zen (if you’re not sure, the answer is ‘Very’). I am going to be double and triple that cross if ITV don’t give us (at least) a second series of Eternal Law.

There was a lot going on in the series finale. The case of the week reflected three of Eternal Law’s biggest recurring themes – war, sacrifice and family, but it’s main purpose is still to facilitate the bigger story.

Richard uses the case to pile the pressure on Zak and Tom and we learn a little more of what this fallen angel is capable of.

Speaking of which, I stand corrected on last week’s assumption that Mr Mountjoy was testing his angels in a rather callous way. All, unsurprisingly, is not what it seemed.

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Eternal Law: Funny, poignant and easy on the eye

I am more than a wee bit in love with Eternal Law now. A lot of that love is for Zac, the very middle-class angel happy to mock himself (with regards to the ‘poor fish’ he’s buying at the market: “Line caught on the Tweed by a hirsute man called Malcolm, apparently.”) as well as others, but there is plenty of love for Tom and Mrs Sheringham too. Not to mention the heart and wit and intelligence and spirit that Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah have written into every line of the series.

This week, there is more darkness than before. It’s clear from both Richard and Zac’s comments (not to mention his own actions – tempting Zac with Hannah, giving him this week’s case, his treatment of Zac after the incident with the Cheshires) that Mr Mountjoy may not actually be all that pleasant.

After Tom accidentally wanders onto an army bombing range and saves the life of Laura, a young soldier with a bayonet deep in her thigh, Zac is asked to defend her in a court martial by her handsome psychiatrist Maj John Parker (Mark Umbers). Solving Laura’s case allows us to learn about one of Zac’s previous missions (as a soldier in the First World War) and lets Zac attempt to defuse the situation with Hannah by setting her up with Maj Parker.

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Eternal Law: Angels don’t pick up dog poo…

Every moment of Eternal Law that I watch makes me love it more and more. The moral questions, the subtle revealing of the characters’ depths, the bloody marvellous dialogue given to Zak and brought to life by Sam West – I’m at a loss as to why people tune into watch a show about angels being lawyers and then complain about the lack of realism in the courtroom instead of savouring all of these other wonderful things.

Of course cases don’t go to trial as quickly as they do here, but all TV crime dramas cut to the chase. In a weekly procedural, nobody wants to know about the nine months or more that it takes to get to court. The people who didn’t like that, are going to like the idea that Zak and Tom can suddenly swap to prosecution even less. But, yah boo sucks to ’em. Eternal Law isn’t really about law, it’s about justice. And this week the pursuit of justice has a very expensive price tag.

Zak and Tom are prosecuting Gemma, who fatally stabbed her alleged stalker. Tom has serious qualms about this, which are fuelled by the noisy support that Gemma receives both inside and outside the courtroom, Jude’s influence and learning that Gemma will kill herself if she’s convicted. To make matters worse, Richard is meddling and messing with Tom’s mind. He plants a seed of thought early on that has terrible consequences – exactly his intention I’m sure.

The focus is very much on Tom this week, from his teen-like rebellion against Mrs Sheringham complete with thoughtless, hurtful comments to his misjudgement of the case in hand. I fully expect to see Ukweli Roach on my TV a lot more in future.

It is still Sam West who is the star of this show though. Zak has too many wonderful lines to regurgitate them all here, but for the record, I particularly enjoyed the quip about Tom being ‘brilliant on the day of judgement’, and his response to Mrs Sheringham’s suggestion that they should get a dog: “If it can learn to flush the loo it’s more than welcome, but please be advised that as the actual embodiment of heavenly grace on earth I will not be reduced to picking up poo in a plastic bag.”

My final highlight of this week is Mrs Sheringham stepping in to stop Jude ‘messing with the head of one of her boys’. I love Orla Brady’s combination of compassion and utter steeliness. And I won’t be sad to see the back of shallow, silly Jude…

With only two weeks to go, I can’t tell you how much I’m hoping ITV commission a second series. There is so much more I want to know and see. I want more of the fabulous flying sparks when Zak and Richard clash. I want to know more about Mrs Sheringham. I want to see Sam West show us more of Zak’s heartbreak and joy and conflicted emotions whenever Hannah is in the room.

For now, I will be content to find out if the Armageddon clock can be stopped and which of our angels has started its deadly ticking. Who is closer to falling? Feel free to speculate below! Roll on next week…

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Eternal Law: The angels find their feet

If you’ve stuck with Eternal Law this far, then this is the week in which your faith (or patience or inability to shift off the sofa) is rewarded.

The focus shifts firmly on to Zak and Tom’s case this week, which is nicely obscured and, naturally, much more interesting. Mack Steen (David Bradley – or Argus Filch – if you’re a Harry Potter fan) is a curmudgeonly old sod being turfed (along with all his fellow residents) out of his care home by the uncaring owner Keith Cedric (Adam Kotz). Mack poisons (but doesn’t kill) Cedric and what should be a simple guilty plea to ABH goes awry as Richard sticks his oar in and gets the charge raised to attempted murder.

The enjoyment is in seeing Zak unpick the layers of the story to get to the truth and understand why Mr Mountjoy has sent this case his way. The resolution also feels more in tune with what Eternal Law is about than the first two episodes too. (I’m deliberately not spoiling so you can go and watch this on ITV player when you’re done here.)

I already adore Zak (Sam West is pure class, even – or perhaps especially – in an apron) and he gets some beautiful dialogue from Matthew Graham this week. I liked his response to Mack’s “You want chat? Tickety-boo. Oprah, Jeremy, Trisha. All on right now…” – “I won’t if you don’t mind, I know what hell feels like already.” I giggled at “It’s like having Ned Sherrin to stay” (after Mack heads off to point his barrage-balloon bladder at the porcelain) and if you weren’t tickled by his teasing Tom about his new friend (“Hiya!”) then I don’t know what we’re going to do with you. You have to admire his restraint (“Ow! Bloody ow!”) when punched by Mack in thanks for Zak trying to stop breaching his bail conditions.

Speaking of which, Tom is growing on me too – his concern for the “lonely” internet ladies who really want to chat, his reaction to experiencing Joe’s dementia, his superior and ecstatic dance moves, copying Mack’s tea-drinking method – all make me want to bring him home and feed him biscuits.

The small snippets of angel mythology woven around this week’s episodes make the larger mystery all the more alluring. I was tickled both by the lawn full of four-leaf clovers as a potential portent of doom and at Zak’s expression of exactly how ‘impressive’ angels are between the sheets. Less joyful was learning exactly how Mrs Sheringham lost her wings. As brutal an act as placing Hannah in Zak’s path again, I would say.

All in all, very satisfying. I’m off to cultivate my new crush on Sam West, so see you next week.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Eternal Law: The Difficult Second Episode

Yes, it’s Difficult Second Episode week. Viewers who have stuck with you past your the first episode will be looking to be entertained enough to stay with you to the end (in a good way, not a “Bloody hell, might as well see where this ends now I’ve wasted three weeks on it” way).

I’m enjoying the quiet quirkiness and warm heart of Eternal Law. Sam West is a joy to watch as Zak, and he’s been gifted some lovely dialogue by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. And yet, gentle reader, I worry for Eternal Law.

Casting around t’internet, there are people who think it’s too silly or too dull. I can’t agree with the ‘silly’ people – I’m willing to buy into angels covertly helping humans. That’s no sillier than a dead policeman conjuring up his own personal limbo for other dead coppers…

So, is it dull? That’s not the adjective I’d choose, but I can see why you  might reach for it when both EL’s cases of the week have been so predictable.

It was clear from the beginning that the only villain in this piece was Richard (Tobias Menzies doing his creepy vulpine thing). That’s not to say that there aren’t divorcing parents out there who won’t benefit from a reminder that they should be going to court for what’s best for their child, not to punish their ex. And I enjoyed the judge’s King Solomon moment as he made his final decision – though I don’t suppose Social Services appreciate being used as a stand-in for the whole ‘chop the baby in half’ solution.

I could do with a bit more of the supernatural too. I appreciate that it can’t be all wings and heavenly CGI, and I like the extra pressure on Zak not to be tempted by Hannah (one more angel leaving Heaven and Mr Mountjoy may give up on the human race completely – though why we should get the blame for the angels I’m not quite sure…), but I’m not feeling the threat of armageddon yet.

Until I start caring about anyone other than Zak, there’s no real jeopardy (or long-term interest). I’m not giving up on Eternal Law yet though. I stand by my statement that it shouldn’t be judged too fast or against Those Other Shows. For now Sam West’s luminous performance is enough to bring me back next week – but if Eternal Law wants a longer run than six episodes it will need more than one stellar actor.

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Eternal Law: We’re loving angels instead…

There’s a certain irony to knowing that the creators of Eternal Law like their work to be judged on how well it achieves its aims rather than what people think it ought to be achieving, when a lot of people won’t be judging EL on its own terms at all this evening, but on whether it’s as good as Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (bearing in mind there are plenty of LoM fans who wish A2A had never happened). Personally I’m put in mind of the three series forming a sort of Law and Order: Afterlife – we’ve had the policework, here comes the prosecution…

The premise is a simple one: two angel barristers Zak and Tom (Sam West and Ukweli Roach) fall to earth to help humans (as counsel for the defence). They are helped by Mrs Sheringham (Orla Brady) and have a nemesis in the shape of Richard (Tobias Menzies), prosecuting counsel (and fallen angel).

Of course, this isn’t Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, crucially it doesn’t seem to be Bonekickers either. The mix of straightforward case of the week (Tom and Zak have to defend a man who seems to have shot at his ex-girlfriend  – whose testimony sent him to prison for two years – and her new husband on their wedding day) with an underlying mystery and mythology (Why are the angels here? What’s the big deal about God  – aka Mr Mountjoy – sending a chorister to earth? What sort of frontline is Richard talking about? What exactly does Mr Mountjoy ‘pulling the plug’ entail?) is well judged.

There’s plenty of funny dialogue (the jokes about the stained glass portrait of Terry were a particular highlight) and in Sam West, Eternal Law has a charismatic and highly talented lead (even if he does bear an increasingly uncanny resemblance to Gary Barlow). Zak is the jaded, flawed senior partner, but he’s not a stand-in for Gene Hunt. There’s a subtlety and restraint in the writing (and in Sam West’s performance) that mark him as a man cut from different cloth, albeit from a similar template.

If I have any complaint, it is that it was obvious from the moment we saw Sean dismantling the rifle on the roof after the shooting who the culprit was, but in an episode where we’re discovering the world and its characters, you can get away with a flimsy case of the week. Let’s hope next week’s case is a bit meatier – I have been sufficiently hooked to tune in again. I have high hopes that Eternal Law will be worth a weekly blog post – only time will tell.

If you didn’t watch this episode of Eternal Law, you can do so now on ITV player. I highly recommend doing so.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Ashes to Ashes (3.8): A love letter to Gene Hunt

Two questions. One, how can a mere blog do justice to a proper thrilling TV event like the conclusion of Ashes to Ashes? And, two, did you guess correctly what was going on? Actually – make that three: Did you make it through without crying? Me, neither.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in approaching this episode with some trepidation – we Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes fans have invested heavily (time, theories and emotions) over the past five years and if the writers fell at the final hurdle it wouldn’t just be disappointing now – it would devalue everything that went before (not to mention taking all the fun out of those DVD boxed sets).

I don’t know about you, but I take my hat off to Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. They crammed the episode chock full of the things we love about LoM and A2A: the great, incomparable Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister in his finest hour yet), a daft TV reference (well done whoever made the papier mache heads of Alex and Gene for that It’s a Knockout run), wonderful Huntisms, spine-tingling tension and some serious chills too. If it wasn’t enough that we’re wrapping up five years of questions (well the most important ones anyway), we get a crime of the week too.

And the truths we’ve been hankering after? Gene tells the truth about Sam in a moment you might otherwise miss – the DCI sent him to get a pint in. It brings a whole new meaning to Last Orders, doesn’t it?

The policeman who’s been haunting Alex? Poor old Gene… a green PC who thought he was Gary Cooper in High Noon and was buried in a shallow grave back in the fifties. But from the moment Gene experiences his own weird TV flashback in Keats’ office, you know your heart is really going to get broken.

Philip Glenister has been the star of the show from Day One (if you don’t believe me, read the reviews of Harvey Keitel trying to wear the Gene Genie’s cowboy boots), but, boy does he blow you away here. The look of trepidation on his face as he drives onto the farm, the terrible, un-Gene-like look on his face as Alex uncovers, first, the bones and then the awful, awful truth. The poignant story-telling in the decrepit farmhouse. Who could blame Gene for forgetting his past, and that this world is a place where coppers go to sort themselves out?

Which answers another question – Ray, Chris, Shaz – they’re all dead coppers working through their issues. But who is Jim Keats? Some sort of demon determined to wrestle some souls into hell it would seem. If there was a line where Gene explained it, we’ll have to wait for the 100-minute version of this episode on the DVD extras I guess. We can only go on the heavy symbolism (Ray, Chris and Shaz being led downstairs for their ‘transfer’) and plentiful hissing noises emanating from Daniel Mays for now. I don’t know which I found more disturbing – Keats driving the Quattro back to London or him stroking Alex in his office. Both had my flesh creeping though.

Neither matches the horror of him leaving the death tapes for Ray, Chris and Shaz though (and let’s not forget the incredible performances of Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster and Monserrat Lombard here) or the manic insanity as he tears down the walls of the world. For all that, I love that the team’s love and loyalty is enough to repair the world – and that Alex can restore the Gene Genie to his full powers (and in time to solve that crime of the week).

Funnily enough, for all the revelations, it was the moment that the Dutchmen ‘killed the Quattro’ that really drove home that the end was nigh. Of course, the sight of the Railway Arms – and Nelson – really started the tears falling. And as Gene’s beloved team finally move on, bickering, Alex faces her final test, Gene finally gives Keats that smack in the face and Alex at last kisses that man… well, it’s a good job the tissues were close to hand.

And then, just when you think it’s all over (in every sense), in stumbles some poor sod looking for his iPhone…

So what am I taking with me to bed now? A satisfying explanation for five years of weirdness and the stand-out performance of Philip Glenister – from the vulnerability in the farmhouse to the full-on Armed Bastard. I’m glad that the Gene Genie lives (as it were) to fight many more days – even if we won’t get to see them. Thank you Ashley, Matthew, Philip, Keeley, Dean, Monserrat and John (not forgetting the rest of the cast and crew) – you gave us something wonderful and unique. The Quattro may be dead, but Gene Hunt will live on in our hearts for many years to come.

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Ashes to Ashes (3.1): More questions than answers

So, we have eight weeks to finally unravel what’s been going on in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and we got off to a cracking start last night. From Alex’s new introduction – “My name is Alex Drake and frankly your guess is as good as mine” to our first sighting of DCI Gene Hunt – the Audi Quattro roaring across the screen to the Ride of the Valkyries, Hunt in full-on sheriff mode (it seeems Alex may harbour fantasies of being rescued from various types of badness by the Gene Genie too) – it was good to be back in Gene’s world.

Alex appeared to have gone back to the future… but it was only a dream – one she was literally slapped out of by Gene Hunt, who needed her to clear his name with D and C (Discipline and Complaints) after he accidentally shot her at the end of Series 2. Question one, what’s the significance of the news report of a body dug up in the present day?

Talking of D and C, here enters DCI Jim Keats – is he also from the future? He says he wants to help Alex, but is telling the truth? Questions two and three.

There is also the Case of the Week to solve – a little girl called Dorothy Blond has been kidnapped. Ray Carling has been running the investigation while Gene has been hiding out abroad (“the Isle of Wight. But that was shit, so I tried the Costa Brava.”) but with little success. Lucky for Dotty, Alex (yes, in red shoes) and Gene return to squabble, pull faces and eventually save the day.

Frankly it’s amazing Alex gets anything done however, what with being haunted by a dead policeman who seems to be missing half his face (Q4), stumbling on a file about Sam Tyler (Q5), and being subjected to her worst hairstyle yet.

But this isn’t really Alex’s show – I’m not sure I care whether she gets back to Molly anymore – the beating heart of the show is Gene. It may be the braggadocio and one-liners that go down in history, but it’s the vulnerability that we’re occasionally allowed to glimpse that stops him being a cartoon caricature.

The final shot of him through a rain-soaked window, whisky glass in hand, after Keats has vowed to expose his secrets and destroy his reputation, certainly pulled at my heart-strings, even as I did my best to ignore the seeds of doubt the dastardly writers have planted. Damn you Graham and Pharoah!

Still, having slept on it, my faith in the Gene Genie remains. I can’t wait to see what he makes of speed-dating next week.

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