Law & Order: UK series 8, ITV, with Bradley Walsh, Ben Bailey Smith PREVIEW

BEN BAILEY SMITH as DS Joe Hawkins and BRADLEY WALSH as DS Ronnie Brooks. Law and Order: UK, ITV
DS Ronnie Brooks and new partner DS Joe Hawkins (Ben Bailey Smith). Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Wednesday, 12 March, 9pm

Story:
Ronnie and his new partner Joe are leading an investigation into the death of jeweller Harry Bernstein who is found dead with no hands or teeth.

THE cast of ITV’s hit reworking of Dick Wolf’s hugely successful US drama may chop and change, but Bradley Walsh’s dependable old trooper Ronnie Brooks soldiers on.

Which is great for the series. ITV has exported L&O: UK all round the world – even back to the US – and in eight series over five years, it has become a very successful part of the channel’s drama line-up, nabbing 5.4million viewers during the last series.

It won’t challenge the best shows around – currently led by True Detective on Sky Atlantic – but its taut stories exposing the vagaries of the legal process are far more gripping than Midsomer Murders or Death in Paradise.

Ronnie Brooks is now the face of the show

Bradley Walsh doesn’t do anything spectacular as an actor on the show, but he is likeable as an

 Law and Order: UK, ITV. ROSALYN WRIGHT as Miranda Jones, GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker and DOMINIC ROWAN as SCP Jacob Thorne
Barker and Thorne with their witness, Rosalyn (right)

idealised decent, by-the-book copper with his neat hair, spectacles and mac, and no one else on it has his sheer watchability. The former footballer turned comic, quizmaster and actor has now earned his acting spurs to such a degree that he was up against David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch at the National TV Awards (Cumberbatch won).

His character’s veteran status – he’s the only original face still on duty – is highlighted in this new series by the arrival of his latest partner, DS Joe Hawkins, played by Ben Bailey Smith (aka rapper and standup Doc Brown).

Hawkins is straight in from child protection and early on there is friction between him and Ronnie when they are interviewing a young lad who may have witnessed a horrible murder in a car park. Joe, the younger man, effectively tells Ronnie that the boy is traumatised and should be questioned more gently, and Ronnie doesn’t initially like being told how to do his job.

Dale Horgan, drug dealer and vicious murderer

The friction between them is just one story strand in yet another strong start to a L&O: UK series, typically appearing at first to be about one crime, but

 Law and Order: UK, ITV. PETER BARRETT as Dale Horgan
Nasty piece of work – Dale Horgan

then turning into an investigation into a different offence, and on this occasion one that is much more harrowing.

It opens in adrenaline-pumping style with a car chase, a crash and a grisly discovery. The driver pursued by police is dead, but in his boot is a corpse with no hands or teeth. This is the body of a gem dealer, and at first this appears to be some kind of business vendetta.

But instead, Brooks soon finds himself up against a really nasty operator, Dale Horgan, a drug dealer and vicious murderer who the detective sergeant has been trying to imprison for years.

Future guest stars

The legal team of Thorne (Dominic Rowan) and Barker (Georgia Taylor) raised the stakes in court, but the episode ends badly for Brooks. All of which sets things up nicely for ensuing weeks.

Helen Baxendale and Diana Quick are among the bewigged characters in this opener, and upcoming guest stars include Hattie Morahan, Joseph Millson, the late Roger Lloyd Pack, Colin Salmon, Roy Hudd, Christopher Fulford, Haydn Gwynne and Harriet Walter.

A fine line-up – but it’s unlikely any of their characters will outshine Ronnie Brooks.

Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Ben Bailey Smith DS Joe Hawkins, Paterson Joseph DI Wes Leyton, Dominic Rowan Jacob Thorne, Georgia Taylor Kate Barker, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, Helen Baxendale Eleanor Richmond, Tracy Brabin Lyndsey Bernstein, Diana Quick Judge Hall, Christopher Fulford Mickey Belker, Michael Culkin Justice Lockwood, Dale Horgan Peter BarrettSonny Serkis Danny (Eyeris) 

Law & Order: UK series 5 PREVIEW

Jamie Bamber as DS Devlin tracking a suspect at St Pancras. Pic: (C) ITV Plc

Rating ★★★½

ITV1, from Sunday, 10 July, 9pm
 

CrimeTimePreview has only been knocking around television’s mean streets for 10 months, but in that time it’s already watched three series of this London-based spin-off from America’s longest-running crime series.

In a month that Sky1 starts showing the 20th and last season of the original Law & Order, ITV1 is hurriedly serving up another helping of its reboot of the winning formula – the last having come our way in March.

With a 20-year backlog to call on, ITV can keep remodelling the stories from the skilfully written US series for quite a while yet. And so long as it has its appealing cast, punchy location shoots and well-adapted dramas that are intriguing and often enticingly ambiguous, the show will be worth a gander.

Dominic Rowan and Peter Davison
New team members Peter Davison and Dominic Rowan
Series five welcomes new faces Peter Davison as new Crown Prosecution chief Henry Sharpe and Dominic Rowan as prosecutor Jake Thorne (Ben Daniels and Bill Paterson having moved on).
Rowan has the beefier role, Thorne being a working-class lad who was sharp enough to become a barrister. He’s also a ladies’ man on the quiet, not that we see much of that side of him in the opening episode.
Where Ben Daniels could be a bit earnest, Rowan is grittier and gets off to a good start in The Wrong Man, in which he feels his way into breaking a conspiracy of silence among hospital staff over a higher-than-usual number of untimely deaths.

Freema Agyeman

Breaking the conspiracy of silence
A young woman, Suzanne, is brought into A&E with flu-like symptons, but dies after treatment. A senior nurse blows the whistle to DI Natalie Chandler (Harriet Walter), and DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) and DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) have a hard time trying to work out whether a crime’s been committed, and if so, was it negligence or malicious.

The best episodes of Law & Order are good at showing how hard it is to get at the truth, and this opener – guest starring James Fox as a distinguished doctor – is murky, with faked medical credentials, an alcoholic doctor and misguided professional loyalties.

Once the detectives establish that Suzanne was given codeine, which it was clear would have fatal consequences when mixed with her medication for depression, Brooks and Devlin have their smoking gun.

Gun rampage and a missing toddler
The one false note is when Rowan in court asks the defendant to empty his pockets. This is a nice coup de theatre, but would it happen in real life? Years of watching courtroom dramas teaches us that lawyers shouldn’t ask questions to which they don’t know the answer. Rowan can’t know what the defendant has in his pockets, so he is perhaps being unrealistically reckless.

James Fox

Quibbles aside, it’s a cracking start to the series, and there’s much to look forward to. The partnership between council estate boy Brooks and the educated, dapper Devlin humanises the stories, and lead writer Emilia di Girolamo says this series will delve into their emotional lives.

This series will also see prosecution team Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) and Thorne struggle to get to the truth behind a missing toddler, a gun rampage and the brutal murder of a much loved couple asleep in their new home. It will finish with a major two-parter that di Girolamo promises will be ‘challenging’ and features ‘stunning performances’ from Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber.

Cast: Bradley Walsh DS Ronnie Brooks, Jamie Bamber DS Matt Devlin, Harriet Walter DI Natalie Chandler, Dominic Rowan Jacob Thorne, Freema Agyeman Alesha Phillips, Peter Davison Henry Sharpe, James Fox Dr Edward Austen, Frances Tomelty Sister Logan

Brooks and Devlin

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