Don’t get attached to this for legal reasons
The Brief 8.30pm, ABC
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?
Thoroughly engaging: Alan Davies as Henry Farmer