Public Service Announcement 2 of 2012: Body of Proof, New Girl, Public Enemies, Eternal Law

More, more, more, as Andrea True Connection once sang about the January schedules. Firstly, two more American shows for your attention. The second season of Dana Delany vehicle Body of Proof starts this week: I liked season 1, and there really isn’t much backstory to catch up with if you fancy an undemanding forensic science procedural. Moreover, the American ratings would suggest that it won’t be too long before it’s on the slab itself, so catch it while you can (Thursday 5 January, 9pm, Alibi).

And bit-of-a-hit freshman comedy New Girl reaches our screens as well, with Zooey Deschanel dividing audiences as a teacher who moves into a flat with three men after her relationship ends. The Radio Times’s excellent Alison Graham suggests that if you liked Juno (she didn’t) you’ll like this (she doesn’t). I liked Juno, and I also liked Deschanel in (500) Days Of Summer, so I’ll be giving this a go (Friday 6 January, 8.30pm, C4).

Now for the British shows. I did my best with Brit-drama last year, but most of it confirmed my prejudices by being OK but not as good as the American stuff. So here’s a few shows I won’t be watching. Tonight sees the debut of consecutive-nights three-parter Public Enemies, with Daniel Mays (again) as a paroled killer and Anna Friel as his probation worker. I’m guessing secrets will be revealed, but I won’t be there to see them (tonight, 9pm, BBC 1).

Then a real curio: Eternal Law, from the creators of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, is about two angelic (actually, not metaphorically, as far as I can see) barristers who come down to Earth to get involved in court cases. It’s set in York, one of my favourite places, but unless the reviews are stellar I’ll be giving this one a miss as well (Thursday 5 January, 9pm, ITV 1 – Scottish viewers might need to hunt about a bit).

And also starting on Friday 6 January, both at 9pm: Law and Order: UK (ITV 1 – Scottish viewers might need etc etc); and dramedy Stella, written by and starring Ruth Jones  (Sky 1).

Phew. On top of all that, coming soon to a PSA near you: Borgen, Desperate Housewives, Unforgettable, and The Good Wife.

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Law & Order: UK s5 ep 6

It’s no real surprise that the best Law & Order: UK episode in, well, ever was one far less about the “Law” and a lot more about the “Order”.

The show’s mission to reconcile the original American plots, the English legal system and dramatic necessity has always been an uphill task, but this season has been the worst in terms of watchable, plausible, bearable lawyer or court room scenes. Too often, they make very little sense. And they’re usually rubbish.

In fairness, the cop scenes have seemed a little weaker this time around as well, but they’re still the only reason to watch L&O:UK as far as I’m concerned; there’s a lot to enjoy in Ronnie and Matt’s interactions and investigations, and Harriet Walter, Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber are great.

This season finale in particular was Bamber’s turn to shine; a story about a shooting, a crime-ridden estate, a drug-dealing gangster, and a kid who never had a chance because his mother prioritised her next hit over any love or care for her son. A little too topical for comfort, it dipped into several issues intelligently, without its usual awkward staginess and artificiality, and was miles better than your regular L&O:UK episode full of histrionic speeches from James, Jake, Alesha or whoever happens to be doing the shouting in court that particular week.

The legal scenes were still a bit dubious, but kept to a minimum, and the single trial scene was simple and powerful, complimenting the rest of the story rather than detracted from it, for a change. Regardless of that though, the big sucker-punch came from the coda at the end, of course. Another shooting, and one of my favourite characters lying bleeding in the street with the dreaded “To be continued….” coming up before the end credits. Noooooooooooooooooooo!

Law & Order:UK

Gosh.

ITV in decent drama shock?  I don’t expect to report that too often but I have to admit I really enjoyed this.   Despite the fact that the US original long ago passed into the ranks of well-made “wallpaper tv” for me – ie  pleasant enough to have on in the background, but I wouldn’t devote any serious attention to it – I found this remake gripping.

Largely well-acted and well-paced, it shows what can be done with a decent budget, a good cast and some common sense.  Lest the surprises stop there (I even got the ITV iPlayer to work!), I have to signal out Bradley Walsh for praise for his excellent, believable performance as the lead cop.   He was ably assisted by Jamie Bamber as his sidekick, and Ben Daniels as the ADA prosecuting lawyer.   All three were well-drawn, rounded and convincing characters, as were the mother and aunt of the dead baby at the centre of the story, although the same could not be said for Freema Agyeman’s Mary Sue-style character – in the same manner as Without a Trace’s Elena Delgado, her sole function is to pop up at convenient moments with a “new” damning piece of evidence to re-start the investigation when it stalls – or Bill Paterson’s OTT CPS chief who seemed to have wandered in from another programme entirely.

This being ITV, the show also suffered a little from their tendency to treat the audience like children, rather than letting them work things out for themselves.  So there was a fair bit of clunky dialogue and a whole lot of stating the obvious, but, on the whole, this was a good, solid show and one I think I’ll watch again.

As far as reviewing it again goes, though, I think we’ll just make this a full-season thread and review by comment.  I’ll post what I think of any more episodes I watch in the comments thread below.  Please feel free to do the same.