Don’t get at­tached to this for le­gal rea­sons

The Brief 8.30pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THERE is no point in get­ting overly en­thu­si­as­tic about The Brief on the ba­sis of this first episode of the sec­ond se­ries. Not that there is any­thing es­pe­cially aw­ful about it. In fact there is much to en­joy in this good- na­tured court­room drama, not least be­cause it stars the multi- skilled colum­nist, co­me­dian and ac­tor Alan Davies ( best known here as television’s ma­gi­cian de­tec­tive Jonathan Creek) as louche lawyer Henry Farmer.

Henry is a Rumpo­lian bar­ris­ter, only younger and bet­ter look­ing. And his gam­bling ad­dic­tion, com­plex per­sonal life and ab­sence of any in­ter­est in quot­ing ro­man­tic po­ets around the of­fice make him a more ap­peal­ing char­ac­ter than John Mor­timer’s.

Al­though like Rumpole, he is a sham­bles, Henry is a smart, shrewd sham­bles ( ex­cept when it comes to cards and horses). He un­der­stands the way the courts work in prin­ci­ple and in prac­tice, and will cut through con­ven­tions to help his clients ( hav­ing a semi- es­tranged fa­ther who is a se­nior judge oc­ca­sion­ally helps).

Henry also has the manda­tory hu­man qual­i­ties of the mod­ern TV hero. He des­per­ately misses his young son, now liv­ing in Aus­tralia. He helps ju­nior bar­ris­ters, be­cause that’s the sort of bloke he is. He be­lieves in ap­pro­pri­ate causes, demon­strated by his rid­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tally ac­cept­able bi­cy­cle. And in each episode he ad­dresses a so­cial is­sue.

In this one a pri­va­tised rail com­pany run by cap­i­tal­ists with much more gold in their pock­ets than heart is in­volved in an ac­ci­dent. And Henry is on the side of the train driver, even though it looks as if he is at fault.

Henry aside, the se­ries is stan­dard stuff. The sup­port staff in his cham­bers have hearts of gold and the nicer of their bar­ris­ter bosses are re­ally de­cent old sticks un­der­neath it all.

The script is well con­structed and the plot of this episode is in­ter­est­ing enough, with the out­come rea­son­ably ob­scure for most of the 70 min­utes of the show. And Davies does a ter­rific job with Henry, mak­ing a bloke who would be a dis­as­ter to know in re­al­ity thor­oughly en­gag­ing on the tube. Over­all, there are a great many worse court­room dra­mas on the box, and worse things to watch.

But don’t get in­volved with Henry and his pals, be­cause they are not go­ing to be around for very long. This se­ries con­sists of only four episodes. And don’t ex­pect an­other one. Davies bailed from The Brief last year, telling Bri­tain’s The Times : ‘‘ It was cat­a­stroph­i­cally man­aged and pro­duced. They wanted me to do more and I quit.’’ It’s ac­tu­ally not bad, but what hope is there for any­one when their brief loses con­fi­dence?

Stephen Matchett

Thor­oughly en­gag­ing: Alan Davies as Henry Farmer

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