A diff erent location puts a fresh spin on some familiar stories – that’s what Guy Davis found when he checked out Law & Order: UK.
If you’ve been anywhere near a television in the past two decades, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a statement that begins like this: “ In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups …”
Yes, most of us are familiar with the opening spiel that prefaces an episode of Law & Order. But wait a minute, here’s a new development: “ … the police who investigate crime and the Crown prosecutors who prosecute the off enders.”
Crown prosecutors? What, you may well ask, happened to the district attorneys? Well, here’s the thing. Now that the venerable cop-show franchise has explored pretty much every branch of the US lawenforcement system through its various spin-off s, Law & Order has set off in search of new horizons.
Russia and France have their very own Law & Order series, and so does Britain. Welcome to Law & Order: UK. Doink-doink!
Part of the enjoyment of the Law & Order franchise stems from its sense of familiarity. The cases the cops investigate and the prosecutors defend are many and varied, but the people enforcing the law can be trusted to act world-weary but suitably outraged, and realistic but still idealistic.
It’s a formula that has made the original Law & Order one of the longest-running television dramas of all time, and it’s one that seems easily adapted to any locale. The accents, the addresses and a handful of local customs aside, Law & Order: UK could perhaps take place in any major city anywhere in the world.
British screenwriter Chris Chibnall ( whose credits include Torchwood and Life on Mars) has been tasked with adapting US Law aw & Order episodes for the British series. Stating that he watched more than 100 episodes of the US original to come to grips with the show’s approach, he said: “ I was looking for stories that I connected with emotionally, that had great opportunities for characterisation and felt relevant to Britain today.”
Law & Order creator Dick Wolf claims to be happy with Chibnall’s work, saying that he felt the London-based show would be wellreceived by US audience and that he would “ love to do a crossover between the shows”.
There’s no denying that Law & Order fans will take to the British version, with changes that have been made to feel interesting and refreshing, not like a gimmick. And the pool of British talent on both sides of the camera should give the show plenty to draw upon.
The regular leads – Bradley Walsh, Jamie Bamber and Harriet Walter as the cops, Ben Daniels, Dr Who’s Freema Agyeman and Bill Paterson as the prosecutors – are all solid, although it’s odd for Battlestar Galactica fans to hear that show’s all-American fi ghter pilot Bamber speaking in his usual accent as Detective Sergeant Matt Devlin.
And the fi rst episode did off er the good guys a worthy adversary in the form of Queen’s Counsel Robert Ridley ( Patrick Malahide), a sly, slick defence lawyer nicknamed “ Limber” – “ because there’s nothing he won’t stoop to”.
Crowning glory: Jamie Bamber, Freema Agyeman, Bill Paterson and Ben Daniels are overseeing the proceedings in inset the lawyers gather in their chambers.