|Personally, when it comes to my love of cop shows, I bow to no man. Unless that man is Dick Wolf - creator of Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. (Once Dick takes to an idea, there’s no shaking him.)|
So I had high hopes for the UK version of the Law & Order franchise, the ingeniously titled Law & Order: UK.
Unusually for a crime show, Law & Order is not really a whodunit. Its success is built on the way it sticks rigorously to the same formula. We see the crime, the cops quickly catch the perpetrators, and then the prosecutors nail them in court. Find the richest person involved and it’s usually them. (Dick has a real chip on his shoulder about the fabulously wealthy that even becoming fabulously wealthy himself has done nothing to diminish.)
Making a British version must have represented something of a challenge. Compared to our increasingly gory, twisted cop shows, Law & Order is so old-fashioned it’s almost radical. The detectives are not grubby, alcoholic mavericks. The heroes are decent, principled public servants.
This probably explains why, with his neat side parting and raincoat, Bradley Walsh (Detective Ronnie Brooks) appeared to have wandered in from the set of Heartbeat.
Walsh seemed unsure how far he wanted to jettison his chirpy chappie “Aw, come on Fwankie!” Danny Baldwin persona from Coronation Street. He stuck with it when he was with his partner (fresh-faced pretty boy Jamie Bamber) but become miraculously well-spoken talking to the public.
In the first episode, a baby was gassed by a faulty heating system after a young mum left him on his own.
“There used to a communi’y round ‘ere,” he lamen’ed when – as always happens in cop dramas – no-one would talk to the police.
It was pretty obvious the first person to care was suspicious. Bradley arrested the muvver instead.
“She’s looking at maaaaaaanslaughter,” he declared in the style of Frank Butcher.
It took him and Bamber 20 minutes to work out that the guilty party was the evil property developer driving the tenants’ out – a plot straight out of Scooby Doo.
Plonking the famous Law & Order musical coda into the action every few minutes to make it seem like the American version just did not cut it.
It was nicely shot with some big name cameos. But I’m not sure how many heroic speeches to the jury by chief prosecutor Ben Daniels sucking in his cheeks I can take.
“You’ve got to show me proof…” he told Walsh.
“A bay-bay ‘as been gassed to deaf !” Bradley cried.
“If we prosecute without enough evidence,” Daniels explained, ”we won’t get justice for Sean or his mother.”
It was like a crime show about police procedure for people who’ve never seen a crime show before – ie, no-one.
“Give me evidence directly linking Mike Turner’s actions to Shaun’s death,” Daniels pouted, pausing just long enough before adding, “You get me that... I’ll put him in the dock.”
After their inevitable triumph, the head of the CPS (Bill Patterson) told the anguished barrister, “Good result James. Go home. Have a drink, it’s over.”
Daniels watched the baby’s sobbing mother walking out of court, before simpering (altogether now): “For us maybe.”
Compared to the first episode of the new American series on Five, it was all rather one-dimensional and predictable.
Law & Order is the second-longest running drama in the history of American television. At this rate, Law & Order: UK will have a job to make it to a second series.