Garrow’s Law series 3 with Andrew Buchan PREVIEW

Andrew Buchan as William Garrow. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★

BBC1 from Sunday, 13 November, 9pm 

Story: Garrow returns to the Bailey to risk his already tarnished reputation to defend James Hadfield, on trial for High Treason for attempting to assassinate King George III at the Drury Lane theatre.

The 18th-century courtroom maverick William Garrow returns to flip the wigs of the establishment with more legal derring-do in this third series based on true events from the Old Bailey archives.

Writer and co-creator Tony Marchant revisits a momentous legal battle for Garrow revolving around the attempted murder of the King one night at the theatre. James Hadfield, a former soldier, fires at the monarch in his box and is overpowered by the audience.

Garrow and Lady Sarah

Lord Melville makes it clear that the trial will be political. After some soul searching, Garrow agrees to fight an unpopular case for Hadfield but is puzzled by how to defend him. Convinced that Hadfield is insane – god has told him to sacrifice himself or everything will perish – Garrow is stuck with a law that considers him sane because he is not a permanently raving beast.

Criminal conversation – or sex with another man’s wife
It’s a juicy opener to the series, a past winner of a Royal Television Society award and again a drama that stirs our fascination and horror at the brutality and legal crudeness of merry old England.

At the end of the last series, our barrister hero was (wrongly) convicted of ‘criminal conversation’ – or having sex with another man’s wife. He is now in an ‘irregular’ relationship with Lady Sarah Hill, who is almost as deranged as Hadfield in this episode, so distressed is she at her separation from her child by evil, bitter, nasty husband Sir Arthur.

Following the scandal, Garrow and Lady Sarah are about as popular around town as George Papandreou at a Euro knees-up with Angela and Nicolas, and are struggling financially.

Madness of King George
The cast – led by Andrew Buchan as Garrow, Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah and the spluttering Alun Armstrong as Garrow’s mentor Southouse – once again carry off the wigs and corsets with aplomb, skilfully transporting the viewer back to Newgate Prison, Bedlam and the Old Bailey.

Southouse, Lady Sarah and Garrow

It is in the notorious mental hospital of Bedlam, where people in the 18th century paid a penny to gawp at the mentally ill, that Garrow begins to form his defence. Here he learns that it is possible to be lucid most of the time, but still have a shaky grasp on reality. As usual, it is the law that is an ass.

This is a very delicate point for the barrister to get across, as the King himself is known to have a ‘mind that comes and goes’.

Garrow – fact and fiction
Garrow’s Law has shone a light on an unsung hero of history, and anyone interested in digging further into the facts of his life can start by checking out the Garrow Society website.

Otherwise, just sit back with a glass of port and goggle at the chilling spectacle of ye olde English law in action.

Cast: Andrew Buchan William Garrow, Alun Armstrong John Southouse, Lyndsey Marshal Lady Sarah Hill, Rupert Graves Sir Arthur Hill, Mark Letheren James Hadfield. Guest stars: Olivia Grant as Lady Henrietta, Sir Arthur’s mistress, Derek Riddell silk maker Matthew Bambridge, Patrick Baladi General picton, Cal Macaninch constable Lucas

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New Tricks series 8 PREVIEW

Dennis Waterman, Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and James Bolam. Pic: BBC

Rating ★★★½

BBC1 from Monday, 4 July, 9pm

The New Tricks detectives are up to their old tricks as they return for summer. There’s nothing fresh and no new faces to shake up their familiar routine – and that is surely just how the fans prefer it.

Like those trousers with elasticated waists, New Tricks is a sensible, comfy series. Apart from a little swearing, there’s nothing to have the purple-ink brigade spluttering into their Horlicks.

So familiar is the series that these days it comes around with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. Even the Beeb’s New Tricks web page hasn’t been touched since 2008. With its unchanging format and cast, you know what you’re getting.

Old Fossils
It’s not as gloatingly grisly as Silent Witness or CSI, or as edgily violent as Dexter, The Shadow Line or Boardwalk Empire. Instead, New Tricks is a pleasant, gently humorous crime series with a likeable, distinguished cast.

While it occupies that area of safe, middle-of-the-road crime shows along with Lewis and Midsomer Murders, at least the characters in New Tricks have a bit of hinterland, with the boyishly obsessive recovering alcoholic Brian, cockney lothario Gerry, the widower Jack, and career-damaged Sandra. And those ITV series have nothing like the backlog of popular TV baggage that Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman, James Bolam and Amanda Redman bring with them.

Old Fossils opens this 10-part series, and detective superintendent Sandra Pullman has to convince her old dog retirees on the Unsolved Crime and Open Case squad that the death of a palaeontologiest at the Natural History Museum is worth investigating.

Pathologist got it wrong
The autopsy stated Dr Bernard Fletcher died of a fall, but with pathologist Bob Ruston now suspended for negligence, it looks as though his report was wrong – Fletcher may have been whacked on the head.

Sandra and the boys discover that Fletcher was a legover mechant, that he opposed museum sponsorship from Mondial Fuel owing to the oil industry’s record of environmental damage, and that there is a black market in fossils sold as artworks to the rich and famous. So, motives abound.

It’s a good opener for the new series, with wry moments – Brian explaining the wonders of China as a fossil resource to colleagues frozen in boredom – and a mystery with an intriguing theme.

The episode also makes great use of its extensive access to the Natural History Museum, with the team hunting for clues in the labyrinthine corridors of fossils. Cop dinosaurs walking with dinosaurs, in a way.

• Amanda Redman Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, Dennis Waterman Gerry Standing, Alun Armstrong Brian Lane, James Bolam Jack Halford, Trevor Bannister Bob Ruxton, Vicky Pepperdine Madeleine Simmonds, Natasha Little Sarah Winslow, Lucy Brown Marie Braden

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Garrow’s Law PREVIEW

Garrow, Lady Sarah and Southouse
(Pics: Graeme Hunter/Twenty Twenty Television)

Sunday, November 14, 9pm, BBC1


Rating ★★★★

Traditionalists who long for simpler times when the authorities really had zero tolerance for criminals must absolutely love Garrow’s Law.

The 18th century was a time when sodomy was a hanging offence and a ship’s captain could legally throw slave men, women and children overboard at sea if there wasn’t enough drinking water to go round. And, of course, most of the ‘criminals’ were what we’d today simply call poor and disadvantaged.

Series one, which first got us interested in the pioneering exploits of barrister William Garrow, was almost funny in showing us how bloody awful and iniquitous the Old Bailey was at the time. You half expected Blackadder and Baldrick to pop up every week.

Royal Television Society award
After the success of that season, inspired by the contemporary records from the Old Bailey that are now available online, and with a Royal Television Society award on the mantelpiece, co-creator Tony Marchant’s series and his starry cast are back.

And it kicks off with an extraordinary story about 133 slaves being dispatched overboard from the cargo ship The Zong. Not that the charge is mass murder, of course, but rather a legal squabble between the insurance company and the ship’s captain, whom the insurer’s think is trying to fiddle them.

As the lawyer opposing Garrow remarks, it’s a ‘case of chattels and goods, the same as horses being thrown over’. Did Captain Collingwood act so inhumanely to save the rest of the crew (after his blundering gets them lost at sea), or is there some corrupt reason for his brutality?

Andrew Buchan and Rupert Graves 
As Garrow, played once again by Andrew Buchan, the closest thing Britain has to James Stewart, searches frantically for a moral dimension to the case, his private life is in turmoil.

Lady Sarah Hill, newly returned to London with her infant son, is turned on by her jealous husband, Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves), who suspects the child might be that of her one-time admirer, Garrow. Sir Arthur and his high-ranking friends, unable to defeat Garrow in court, are determined to ruin him and Lady Sarah.

It’s a compelling mix of plotting and emotion, but the series’ magic is in the window it offers into a time when the legal process was extremely primitive. Before Garrow was re-examined in the recently posted online archives, he was obscure (not even a mention in the Oxford Companion to the Law).

Inventing the art of cross-examination
Thanks to Garrow’s Law we can glimpse this extraordinary man, years ahead of his age, outspoken and boldly anti-establishment during this phase of his career (he went on to be Attorney General and an MP).

Garrow argued for the right to put the case for defendants and virtually invented the art of cross-examining prosecution witnesses. Until then the judge or even the jury chipped in with questions. As depicted on-screen, the courtroom was chaotic, resembling a public debating chamber rather than a legal forum.

High-class lawyers were disdainful of representing the rabble dragged to court by shifty thief-takers and bounty hunters, who often gave evidence against the poor slobs they were paid to haul in.

Alun Armstrong and Lyndsey Marshal
The cast are all good, some with faces so characterful they look as though they’ve stepped out of the late 1700s (no names mentioned). Alun Armstrong is fatherly as Garrow’s mentor, Southouse, while Lyndsey Marshal manages to be strong but vulnerable as Lady Sarah.

It’s good to see this series returning. Each week’s story is dramatic and fascinating, with intrigues about the implications of being gay, about women and property, and the mistreatment of disabled sailors all to come.

If Garrow at times seems too saintly here, you still wonder what this man, so out of synch with his contemporaries, must really have been like.

Someone so dogged that he would cause uproar by calling Gustavus Vassa (actor Danny Sapani), a freed black man, to give evidence to a disbelieving court. Garrow was a man who could  really make enemies, and it’s great to watch him doing it.
• Tony Marchant has done an interesting blog about dramatising Garrow’s Law on the BBC site.

New Tricks, old farts

New Tricks returns this week. For the Beeb, the seventh series of New Tricks is old tricks – safe, cosy, no swearing and often a bit silly. But while the nation may not be dancing in the streets at its reappearance, that is probably because many are indoors watching it.

Eight or nine million tune in to hear Dennis Waterman warbling It’s Alright, to say nothing of its audiences in France, Argentina, the US, Iran and 16 other countries.

Sandra and the boys – overjoyed to be back (BBC)

All right, I watch it too – occasionally. But that’s not because of the stories about magic tricks ending in murder, or dead circus ringmasters. Friday’s opener, Dead Man Talking, is typical, featuring a clairvoyant who spooks Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman).

Nor is it all the moaning from the old farts – sorry, retired detectives – about how everything was better in the old days. Or the excruciating attempts at humour (Bolam and Waterman organising their own piss-up in a brewery was flatter than day-old lager).

I dip in because of the cast. They’ve all had great moments in their screen pasts – particularly James Bolam (who plays Jack Halford) with The Likely Lads and The Beiderbecke Tapes, and Dennis Waterman (Gerry Standing) in The Sweeney and Minder.

Amanda Redman, the youngest of the principals in her early fifties, has been a prime-time regular with At Home with the Braithwaites, Dangerfield and others, while Alun Armstrong (Brian Lane) has a long list of superb performances behind him, from Get Carter to This Is Personal – The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Little Dorrit and Garrow’s Law.

So, on a slow night, it’s good to see the old stagers firing off each other. But the danger is that now Last of the Summer Wine has happily been shot, the BBC will keep flogging New Tricks for decades to come (series eight has already been commissioned, apparently).

That really would be something to moan about.

In the meantime, welcome back, New Tricks. But it would be nice if someone at the Beeb, ITV or C4 would commission a fresh crime series that wasn’t as cosy as Horlicks and slippers. Something that didn’t involve vintage cops (Heatbeat, George Gently), Agatha Christie, or cops with stupid names (Rosemary and Thyme).

Something with a bit of grit about it, such as Prime Suspect. Or The Take, which Sky1 did a good job of last year.

Fingers crossed for Sky1’s six instalments of DI Thorne next month with David Morrissey (see the trailer).

New Tricks starts on BBC1, Friday 10 Sept, 9pm

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