Bradley Walsh leaves Law and Order: UK — is this the last ever episode?

BRADLEY WALSH as DS Ronnie Brooks, GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker, DOMINIC ROWAN as SCP Jacob Thorne and BEN BAILEY SMITH as DS Joe Hawkins. Law & Order: UK
Bradley Walsh, Georgia Taylor, Dominic Rowan and Ben Bailey Smith

IT’S THE FINAL episode of series 8 tonight – but it could also be the last ever story from Law & Order: UK.

Called Repeat to Fade, it was due to go out in April but was cancelled following the tragic stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire. In the meantime Bradley Walsh has announced that he is leaving the drama after eight successful seasons to take on other projects in drama and entertainment.

‘There may well come a time when we revisit Law & Order: UK,’ says ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November. ‘For the moment we’ll be resting the series whilst we continue to refresh our drama slate.’

Bradley Walsh has said: ‘Ronnie Brooks [his character] is one of my best friends. It’s been an absolute pleasure to inhabit Ronnie’s Mac for as long as I have. Eight series is a wonderful achievement for everyone involved in the production. This has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I hope one day to revisit him, but for now I’d like the opportunity to pursue other drama projects which ITV are developing.’

Huge turnover of cast in Law & Order: UK

One feature of the series, a spin-off from Dick Wolf’s long-running US show, is that it has had a spectacular turnover of cast. Jamie Bamber, Paul Nicholls, Harriet Walter, Paterson Joseph, Ben Daniels, Freema Agyeman and Bill Paterson have all departed, leaving Bradley Walsh as the only original actor still in place through all the changing faces.

Losing all these fine performers has not helped the series, and you wonder if Bradley Walsh found it difficult striking a rapport with new partners and cast members for every series.

Ben Bailey Smith only joined the show as Joe Hawkins for series 8, but he has been Ronnie Brooks’s fourth partner. What was clear amid all the upheaval was that L&O: UK would struggle to keep its identity if Bradley Walsh ever joined the exodus.

The taut format of police and legal characters dealing with crimes whose outcomes were often morally and legally ambiguous has been a steady ratings winner for ITV. L&O: UK was also sold around the world.

Is the show now out of date?

But is the police procedural finally losing its lustre for drama commissioners? With series such as Broadchurch and Happy Valley proving ratings and critical hits, it could be that ITV and the BBC are looking for more character-driven stories that reach a conclusion at the end of each series. Steve November does refer to ‘refreshing our drama slate’.

Law & Order: UK. SHARON SMALL as DI Elizabeth Flynn
Sharon Small as DI Flynn

As for tonight’s episode, it’s easy to see why it was pulled in April because it is about a stabbing at Borough Market. Ronnie Brooks is at the centre of the drama, as he is needled by a 15-year-old suspected of the crime. Ronnie says eventually the lad has confessed to him that he did stab the woman. Trouble is, no one else, including Joe, hears this confession.

Sharon Small arrives on the scene as DI Elizabeth Flynn, replacing Ronnie and Joe’s former boss Wes Layton, and her character’s not impressed with Ronnie’s conduct of the case.

So, Ronnie bows out on a very difficult investigation. He’s been the best thing in the series during its five-year run, and will be missed.

Law & Order: UK is on ITV at 9pm.

See also…

Our interview with L&O: UK lead writer Emila di Girolamo
Our review from 2010

Follow @crimetimeprev

Law & Order: UK – Series 4 PREVIEW

Brooks and Devlin (Pics: (C) ITV Plc/Kudos)

Rating: ★★★½

ITV1, Mondays 9pm, from 7 March

When ITV gets its hands on a crime series that looks half decent, boy, do they flog it. This is the fourth series of Law & Order: UK since 2009, while a fifth series of 13 new episodes is already in production.

Happily, this London spin-off from the Dick Wolf’s US franchise is still young, vigorous and delivering punchy stories (adapted from the American episodes).

The opener of this latest six-episode series, Help, centres on the murder of an ex-Premier League footballer, found in a Hackney street with his head caved in. The two detective sergeants, Brooks and Devlin, track down a man called Mike Jones (played by Lorcan Cranitch), who claims to have been helping Robbie Nichols change a flat tire on his luxury car.

Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) and Steel (Ben Daniels)

East End gangster
However, Law & Order’s cases are intriguing because of their ambiguities and ethical dilemmas, and this one gets complicated when Jones claims notorious East End gangster Don Marsh turned up at the crime scene before he left.

The problem for DI Chandler (the excellent Harriet Walter) is that Marsh has friends among the police and has escaped prosecution on occasion before. She orders Brooks and Devlin to work in a secure office and to ‘watch your backs’.

Witness intimidation, false plea bargaining and corruption muddy the case nicely for the legal half of the episode, though whether a prosecutor such as James Steel (Ben Daniels) would really risk the life of a witness to trap a criminal seems a bit too earnest to be convincing.

DI Chandler (Harriet Walter)

Junk food and booze
This opener is not as strong or highly charged as the first episode of the last series, Broken, with its parallels to the Bulger case, and the resolution here is uncharacteristically neat and tidy for L&O: UK.

It’s also still a drama where character is less important than plot. We learn little that’s new about our heroes apart from the old news that Brooks likes junk food and was a boozer. At one point Marsh tells him, ‘You put the booze before your daughters.’

But the drama rattles along, the street filming is vivid (this one’s shot on the roads and tower blocks of the East End), and Bradley Walsh as Brooks and Jamie Bamber as Devlin are  good as the odd-couple cops – the wise one and the cool one.

Eddie Marsan as the obsessed barrister
The two actors have come different fictional worlds – Walsh from Coronation Street, and Bamber from Battlestar Galactica – but their chemistry is good. 

Devlin (Jamie Bamber)

While the series continues to feature smart guest actors such as Eddie Marsan, here playing an obsessed defence barrister, it should continue to be worth catching – so long as ITV don’t flog it to death.

To end on a scary note, knowing ITV’s form in cranking out series such as Midsomer Murders and Taggart that stagger on forever like zombies, let’s hope we’re not witnessing the birth of another Series That Would Not Die, with Walsh and Bamber tottering through these roles in 25 years’ time.

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