Law & Order: UK with Paul Nicholls, Bradley Walsh PREVIEW

Paul Nicholls and Bradley Walsh. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV1, from Friday, 6 January, 9pm

Story: In a drive-by shooting outside the Old Bailey, DS Matt Devlin is killed and another officer hit by gunfire. It appears to be a targeted attack on a young witness giving evidence in an attempted murder trial. But then DS Sam Casey learns the gunman was targeting police officers.

Paul Nicholls puts in a decent shift as Bradley Walsh’s new sidekick as season six gets off to an emotionally charged start following the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) in the previous series’ cliffhanger.

He plays detective sergeant Sam Casey, brought in to help with the investigation into Devlin’s shooting outside the Old Bailey in a drive-by killing. Brooks is devastated by seeing his partner shot. He gets off to a rocky start with Casey when the new man tells him not to jeopardise the investigation by interfering when he should be off duty recovering.

Justice league – the Law & Order: UK team

Ronnie Brooks turns ‘Robocop’
Streetwise Brooks, of course, ignores the advice and is slammed by his boss, Chandler, for turning ‘Robocop’.

Devlin was hit in what was thought to be an attack on a young witness giving evidence in an attempted murder trial. But Casey tracks down a suspect, student Jamal, and it appears he could have been targeting police officers.

The strength of this spin-off from the US series is that the cases are often realistic in their messiness and ambiguity. Here, the defence barrister (Paul Salmon) argues that Jamal is the victim of police racism, a claim helped by Brooks’ misguided interference. As Jamal’s true motivation becomes apparent,  prosecutors Jake and Alesha are not sure they can get him convicted of murder.

Brooks to his the booze again?
While Paul Nicholls, whose credits include EastEnders and Candy Cabs, looks the part of a young detective, this episode is really Bradley Walsh’s show because he has a lot more to get his teeth into in this story.

Brooks is teetering on the point of coming off the wagon. He says of himself, ‘Married too many times, got my girls. Matty never got any of that.’

On the edge: DS Brooks

Whether checking on his partner’s flat, dealing with Devlin’s sister or taking possession of his trademark raincoat, now covered in his friend’s blood, Walsh is the episode’s heart. 

Emotional punch
It’s a strong opening episode and lives up to writer Emila di Girolamo‘s desire to inject more emotion into the lead characters’ lives, which is difficult given the tightly packed police/courtroom formula. While the conclusion is a bit neater than is often the case with this series, it still highlights the legal system’s alarming fallibilities, on this occasion a pathologist being the dodgy link.

Law & Order: UK‘s success in regularly hitting an average of 5.6million viewers is deserved and based on its no-nonsense, strong storytelling – the kind of focused cop show The Bill used to be back in the 1980s before it went off the rails and became a dodgy soap.

No chance of that happening with L&O: UK so long as it sticks to the original franchise’s formula and keeps recruiting good actors and writers.

Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Paul Nicholls DS Sam Casey, Freema Agyeman Alesha Phillips, Dominic Rowan Jake Thorne, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, Harriet Walter Natalie Chandler, Colin Salmon Doug Greer, John Boyega Jamal Clarkson, Ken Drury Justice Pedotti, Victoria Gould Dr Jeanette Barnton

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