Marcella trailer, with Anna Friel

HERE’S the trailer for ITV’s new thriller Marcella, which is currently on view in cinemas. It sounds like a good one, starring Anna Friel and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, who also wrote The Bridge. Set in London with a Metropolitan Police detective at its heart, Marcella is noir thriller told with Rosenfeldt’s unflinchingly Nordic style. Over eight episodes the audience will be led through a narrative maze where any character could be a witness, victim or suspect. Marcella will get involved in a serial murder case where the modus operandi of the killer bares a striking resemblance to an unsolved spate of killings from a decade ago. Also starring Jamie Bamber, Laura Carmichael, Harry Lloyd and Nicholas Pinnock.

BUCCANEER MEDIA FOR ITV MARCELLA Images taken at the read through in London. Pictured: JAMIE BAMBER as DI Tim Williamson.

Jamie Bamber as DI Tim Williamson in rehearsal with Laura Carmichael as Maddy Stevenson

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

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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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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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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.

Law & Order: UK, ITV1 PREVIEW

Win some, lose some – the Law & Order: UK team (all pics © ITV)

Rating: ★★★★

ITV1, Thursdays 9pm from 9 Sept

CCTV footage of two children leading a six-year-old boy to his murder offers a clear parallel to the James Bulger case. With it, this third series of Law & Order: UK is back with an explosive opener.

From the first scenes, Broken is an emotionally strong episode. There’s the discovery of the body in a derelict South London flat, the tearful police, and DS Ronnie Brooks’ summation – ‘Just when you think you’ve seen it all…’

On this estate of deprivation, where mums work 12 hours a day, the kids are left to babysit each other. Brooks and his partner, DS Matt Devlin, aided by the CCTV cameras, are soon mortified to realise two older girls may be responsible for the shocking murder.

This harrowing storyline was a brave one for the makers to take on. It is sensitively told while not ducking the harsh, sometimes self-interested choices made by police and lawyers.

‘I want that girl in a hospital, not a prison’ 
There’s the ugly legal horse-trading, the careerist barrister and the whole issue of how the law should deal with child offenders.

And it has the courage to wear its convictions on its sleeve, particularly when the mother of the murdered boy says she doesn’t want the girl who is the main suspect, Rose, to be tried for murder. She wants to know who was really responsible for the girl’s atrocious behaviour.

Then, despite the public lynch mobs, tabloid hysteria and the DPP wanting to nail the girl, the director of the Crown Prosecutors, George Castle, announces, ‘I want that girl in a hospital, not a prison.’

It’s a controversial, powerful opening drama for the series, but one that makes me glad the show’s back. When it was imported from the US in 2009, it received lukewarm reviews, but has averaged around 5.9 million viewers an episode.

The US has grown tired of the original after its 20-year run, the plug being pulled by NBC in May.

But here it has hit its stride. At a time when the shambolic The Bill has had to be locked away, Law & Order: UK‘s snappy, assured storytelling and atmospheric location work makes good viewing. The formula, with each episode split equally between the cops and the prosecutors, is as reliable as an old pair of sturdy handcuffs.

Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber
And the cast is engaging, with Bradley Walsh as ex-alky and copper’s copper DS Brooks, and Jamie Bamber as the suave Devlin. Bill Paterson (George Castle), Ben Daniels (senior prosecutor James Steel) and Harriet Walter (very believable as the not-to-be-messed-with DI Chandler) all deliver. Even Doctor Who‘s ex-partner Freema Agyeman just about holds down her brief as Alesha Phillips.

The final key to its success is that the stories are intriguing, ambiguous affairs, rarely tied up in a neat solution – and that’s certainly the case with Broken.

Great scene: when Ben Daniels lays into Rose’s callous mother in the dock

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