|Folk don't mess about in Law & Order: UK. Its cast of cops and lawyers mostly conducted their talking while walking. Probe & Prosecute: OK! Urgent captions kept reminding us exactly where everyone was on London's streets as they furthered their criminal investigations, plus the precise date and hour.|
After six minutes and 10 seconds of elapsed telly-time, the show's initial case had reached the 72-hour mark in a run-down block of flats near King's Cross. Clockwork drama action. Not a moment wasted. No room for a real sense of humanity. Must be a New York City thing. The show's birthplace. The Big Apple: city that never sleeps. Busy-busy-busy. Pacy. Urgent. And so Law & Order: Special Victims Unit begat Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which led to Law & Order: Trial by Jury.
Now we have the franchise's new English outpost. It's a police procedural - and it's a legal drama, too. 'Tecs probe; lawyers finagle. Double bang per buck, buddy! There's a French version, too - but trust those gosh-darned French to buck the system and call their show Paris Enquetes Criminelles, rather than Loi & Ordre: Fr.
Coincidentally, French was spoken in Law & Order: UK, uttered by erstwhile Cockney stand-up Bradley Walsh, playing an old-school East End copper, DS Ronnie Brooks. Bradley's grasp of the Gallic tongue rivalled Dick Van Dyke's mastery of cockney in Mary Poppins. But, as mangled as it was, it served a dramatic purpose: to highlight the fact that Ronnie Brooks might look and sound like one of the cast of The Bill, but in fact he's different. For one thing, he can speak unconvincing French. And he moves around faster. In shorter scenes. Which are filmed to look more glossy than anything you'll ever see in Sun Hill.
Once Brooks's inquiries had been wrapped up in double-pronto time, the case was placed before the legal eagles of the Crown Prosecution Service. These legal eagles strode about arguing with each other, agonising about whether they had enough to convince a jury of the two perps' guilt. Mike Turner and Maureen Walters - j'accuse! Or maybe that should be "Mike Turner and Maureen Walters - Emlyn Hughes!" Strangely, you see, the lawyers overlooked the fact that each of the accused spoke in a Liverpudlian accent - usually sufficient to confirm any televisual suspect's guilt.
Wur ain Bill Paterson wore red braces in his role as CPS head stickler George Castle, forever worrying about some nitpicking point of law or other. Bill was plainly invoking the auld Scots shade of Gordon Jackson's Cowley in The Professionals. Not a necessary sight. And a criminal waste of Bill Paterson.
More super-capable Scottish thespian talent was squandered, too: Patrick Malahide's. He fought in vain to give more than one dimension to his pin-striped defence lawyer smoothie, Ridley. In court, Ridley's smoothness gave way to snarling as he went after prosecution witnesses without conscience or compassion. "This is why the rest of Ridley's chambers call him Limbo," observed a rueful CPS opponent. "There's nothing he won't stoop to." Ditto, this show's cliche-bound authors.
Happily, of course, Ridley - and the two Liverpudlians - were finally undone by a noble crusading maverick CPS lawyer who was prepared to bend the rules to serve justice. Law & Order: UK? Limp & Old. Yuck.