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Is the show now out of date?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 series 7, ITV, with Bradley Walsh, Paul Nicholls PREVIEW

DS Sam Casey (PAUL NICHOLLS) and DS Ronnie Brooks (BRADLEY WALSH) in Law and Order: UK 7
Sam and Ronnie find the cause of the train wreck – an abandoned vehicle. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★★

ITV: starts Sunday, 14 July, 9pm

Story: A commuter train collides with a car that’s been abandoned on the tracks in Streatham, resulting in deaths and a huge number of injuries. A man is charged with murder – but was he after revenge or acting through diminished responsibility?

MANY SHOWS LIKE to end a series with a bang. This latest batch of L&O: UK, however, kicks off with one – a train smash that kills 15 people and injures hundreds.

It’s a spectacular opener, which has the added job of injecting new faces into the legal and cop halves of

PATERSON JOSEPH as DI Wes Leyton in Law and Order: UK series 7
New guvnor Paterson Joseph

the drama. Paterson Joseph steps in as the new detective inspector, Wes Layton, and Georgia Taylor is Kate Barker, who faces Dominic Rowan’s established prosecutor, Jake Thorne, when a man is charged for mass murder following the crash – though there’s a nice twist to her story after she gets in Jake’s face during the trial.

Ronnie tries to calm Sam down

The tragedy of the crash is rammed home when DS Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls) tries but fails to save a boy on the train. Reliable Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) attempts to calm his younger colleague and keep him focused on finding out who left the vehicle on the tracks.

They zone in first on an arrogant, abusive husband who owns the abandoned wheels, then on Finn Tyler, a sad case, separated from his wife and with an alcoholic background and suicidal tendencies.

When the case goes to trial, Sam and Jake are desperate to nail Tyler, who they see as a man who, through his own selfishness, recklessly caused the death of 15 people and devastated hundreds of lives. They want him to serve life sentences for each victim.

New face Kate claims diminished responsibility

Defending Tyler is Kate Barker, who has a bee in her bonnet about the mistreatment of people with

DOMINIC ROWAN as Jacob Thorne, PETER DAVISON as Henry Sharpe and GEORGIA TAYLOR as Kate Barker
Actress Georgia Taylor joins the team

mental health issues and cuts to their services. She argues Tyler  was suffering an abnormality of mind.

In line with the best episodes of Law & Order (this one, called Tracks, is based on the US episode Locomotion), the drama’s loaded with twists and ambiguity, refusing to tell viewers which side to take.

It’s got a great performance from Aidan McArdle as Tyler (unrecognisable here from the smarmy lawyer he played in Garrow’s Law), and there’s a nice scene when Jake basically discards court protocol and just makes a speech slamming the accused. Not realistic, perhaps, but emotional all the same.

What is DS Casey up to?

Where many dramas, such as Broadchurch, benefit from the slowburn, Law & Order‘s template is all about concisely told dramas packed with characters who have murky motivations. The truth is usually hard to discern and the good guys don’t always win. It’s a formula that kept the original US series going for a record-breaking 20 years.

Scriptwriter Emilia di Girolamo, a stalwart of the series and fan of the US version, has written a powerful one here. She tells me series seven features her last two scripts for Law & Order: UK, which is a shame, while she focuses on other projects.

The good news is that it’s a two-part opener, and she’s written the next instalment, which has some pretty big questions to answer about DS Sam Casey after his apparently dodgy behaviour at the end of part one.

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DS Ronnie Brooks (BRADLEY WALSH), DS Sam Casey (PAUL NICHOLLS), DI Wes Leyton (PATERSON JOSEPH), Jacob Thorne (DOMINIC ROWAN), Kate Barker (GEORGIA TAYOR) and Henry Sharpe (PETER DAVISON). Law and Order: UK, ITV
The law and order sides of the story

The Fear starring Peter Mullan Ch4 PREVIEW

Red alert for Richie Beckett (Peter Mullan) in The Fear. Pics: C4

Rating: ★★★★ 

Channel 4: starts Monday, 3 December, 10pm  

Eyeball to eyeball with the Albanians

Story: Richie Beckett, former gang boss turned respected Brighton businessman, pledges money to help rebuild a pier. But Richie’s mind is in turmoil and the empire he runs with his sons is endangered by a vicious Albanian gang.

Tony Soprano famously suffered panic attacks and had to see a shrink. In C4’s new hard-knuckle crime drama The Fear we have another gang boss whose mind is under assault.

But Richie Beckett’s turmoil is more serious and urgent, because just when his Brighton-based empire is under siege from a gang of Albanian psychos, Richie is starting to lose his identity.

He is suffering from some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This would be alarming enough in the new role he has taken on as respectable local businessman, but when his family and interests are suddenly under threat from the vicious newcomers in town, this is calamitous.

Richie with sons Cal and Matty

Grisly killing
Peter Mullan is excellent as the fearsome family head, veering alarmingly between menace and bewilderment. Harry Lloyd and Paul Nicholls are his sons, Matty and Cal, who, along with their mother (Anastasia Hille) think their father is on the booze again.

Cal, the eldest and a creep who revels in his dad’s notoriety, wants to broker some deal with the family of Vajkal, the Albanian guvnor. But the Albanians implicate him in the grisly murder of a prostitute he has used, keeping her beheaded corpse as evidence to incriminate Cal if the Becketts don’t fall into line.

Richie is therefore dragged into a meeting at the Albanians’ farmhouse retreat. Irritable, sleepless, forgetful – Richie can’t even remember battering a young man on the front in broad daylight – his presence at the farmhouse is as sensible as juggling gelignite.

Cal (Paul Nicholls)

Peter Mullan is terrific as a gangster in decline
The Fear is being shown over four consecutive nights and is a bruising but riveting portrait of a criminal in decline, haunted by his past and out of touch with the present. And it’s a story with emotion, as in the scene where Richie enters his wife’s bedroom and asks if he can lie with her. Amid his confusion and increasing aggression, he seeks some feeling of closeness with his estranged wife.

Brighton is evocatively photographed as a lurid but at the same time genteel backdrop, regency buildings juxtaposed with drag entertainers and night-time revellers.

Writer Richard Cottan has created a rich thriller, though having Richie’s wife buying a couple of paintings called Confusion 1 & 2 was not the most ingenious bit of symbolism.

Still, the opener sets up a drama full of tension and dread, setting in motion what can only be a fearsome, tragic train of events.

Cast: Peter Mullan Richie Bennett, Anastasia Hille Jo Beckett, Harry Lloyd Matty Beckett, Paul Nicholls Cal Beckett, Demosthenes Chrysan Vajkal, Dragos Bucur Marin, Shaban Arifi Davit, Julia Ragnarsson Zana, Danny Sapani Wes

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Law & out of order – Sam gets a bit too close to victim Lucy. Pics: ITV

The last series ended with the shooting of Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber). This Friday series six of Law & Order: UK concludes with another highly charged story (again written by Emila di Girolamo) in which Devlin’s replacement, DS Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls) gets a little too involved with the victim of what could be a serial attacker. A police forensics technician is stabbed to death in her home. When the same attacker appears to strike again, the victim survives and is able to identify the man, a taxi driver. Rest assured – Sam’s concern for Lucy (Lydia Leonard) involves plenty of fireworks with the prosecution team (Dominic Rowan and Freema Agyeman) and his boss, detective inspector Chandler (Harriet Walter). And despite some of the cops – Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) excepted – acting with a shocking lack of professionalism, there’s a fittingly dramatic courtroom face-off to wrap up the series. ITV1, Friday, 17 February, 9pm

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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