|Plink plink! Ah, the familiar tones of Law & Order. But what’s this?|
No New York, no yellow taxi cabs, no “perps”. Just Bradley Walsh in a raincoat.
It’s a very odd sensation, watching Law & Order: UK (ITV 1, 9pm), our version of America’s most successful crime series.
Like hearing a cover of your favourite song, or watching a dress rehearsal.
You hear the characters say the lines, but in your head it’s New York, and Lennie Briscoe is walking down the street quipping one-liners as he goes.
He may be dead and gone, but it’s clear that Jerry Orbach is a big influence on Bradley Walsh - he’s surprisingly good as DS Ronnie Brooks, and has clearly been to Lennie School.
Same mannerisms, same walk, and even the same “I remember when people in this neighbourhood knew each other,” mantra. Except around King’s Cross, not the Lower East Side.
Last night’s plot, about a baby’s death which led to a greedy slum landlord in the dock, faithfully followed the L&O formula: the crime’s solved by the second ad break, and then — plink plink! — the action switches to the courtroom.
There was just something missing. The first five minutes of last night’s opener, about a dead toddler found dumped at a hospital, could have come from Casualty or The Bill.
Part of the fun of watching Law & Order was its very American-ness, the seedy New York feel.
Switch it to London, and somehow it takes the urgency out of it; wisecracks are few and far between and whole programme slows down.
In America, all the meetings between the police and lawyers are usually in the police station or round a hot dog stand; in meetings-obsessed Britain they’re all, gawdhelpus, having a “brainstorm session” round a table.
But we’re in real cliche territory as soon as the case comes to court. Are all prosecution lawyers really hand-wringing, earnest types?
You were hard pushed to see whether Ben Daniels was going to fit his barrister’s wig over his halo.
Patrick Malahide thoroughly enjoyed himself as oily defence lawyer Robert Ridley. “Silence,” he tells to one thug client, “is your friend.”
Freema Agyeman is a legal Nancy Drew, with little to do but be sympathetic and full of righteous fervour. We didn’t see enough of Bill Paterson or Harriet Walter.
It’s early days, but less of the courtroom and more of the coppers would go down a treat.