Law & Order: UK – not hitting the mark

"It falls headfirst down a well when it comes to the courtroom drama bits"

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Maybe I’m the only person in the world bothered by Law & Order: UK. It gets very good audiences (nearly six million tuned in for the first episode in the new series) and ITV1 is obviously very pleased with it.

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Even though, yes I know it’s a drama and not a documentary, I am troubled by the amateurishness and silliness of its depiction of the British legal system.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t let myself get too upset, but I marked Law & Order: UK down in my Big Bad Book at the end of the first series, when it graphically depicted a rape of its lead female character, Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman).

If any programme is going to dramatise a severe sexual assault in all of its terror and violence then there had better be a bloody good reason for doing so. And you have to get everything else in your drama absolutely right, otherwise it makes a mockery of any woman who has ever undergone such a dreadful ordeal.

In Law & Order: UK the rape was merely a plot device – used in the past, to their eternal shame, by other feeble dramas when they have run out of ideas about what to do with a lead female character. (The not-at-all-sadly-missed cop show Merseybeat did the same thing.)

More generally, in every episode I’ve seen Law & Order: UK falls headfirst down a well when it comes to the courtroom drama bits (the police investigation parts are OK, thanks largely to Bradley Walsh’s cop-with-a-heart DS Ronnie Brooks).

The drama sags the minute tiresome prosecuting barrister James Steel (Ben Daniels) and junior counsel Phillips arrive. They interview suspects (NO! The police do this) and have long chats about cases in, of all places, Piccadilly Circus.

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My point is you have no business doing the big stuff (dramatising a savage rape) if you can’t get the small stuff right. And Law & Order: UK fails every time.