The Jury with Julie Walters PREVIEW

Julie Walters as barrister Emma Watts. Pics: ITV

Rating ★★★★

ITV1, weeknights, from Monday 7 November to Friday 11 November, 9pm

Guilty or not guilty – Alan Lane?

Story: Alan Lane’s conviction for the violent murder of three women has been found to be unsafe after he’s spent five years in prison. He is sent for a re-trial, and a varied group of people are summoned to do jury service.

Viewers with long memories will recall the first series of The Jury, back in 2002, starring a pretty decent cast of Gerard Butler, Mark Strong, Derek Jacobi and Antony Sher. Since then writer Peter Morgan has gone off and written First/Nixon, The Deal and been Oscar-nominated for The Queen.

Now he’s back with another instalment of jury service and criminal trial, again with a cast that’s not too shabby. Julie Walters plays defence barrister Emma Watts, up against prosecutor John Mallory, played by Roger Allam. Jodhi May, Anne Reid, Steven Mackintosh and Ronald Pickup also feature.

The jury looks a pretty dodgy bunch
The latter all play a mixed bunch of jurors, who are brought together, some very reluctantly, to hear a controversial re-trial of a notorious serial killer, Alan Lane. It’s basically 12 Angry Men with knobs on, telling the story of an emotional murder trial alongside the tangled lives of a suspiciously diverse and at times fishy bunch of jurors.

The jury members have a few issues…

Among them are Paul, who cares for his mum; Katherine, a teacher who’s fallen in love with a 17-year-old pupil; 18-year-old Rashid, who has some kind of medical condition; Lucy, who is tricked by her bitch of a boss, Theresa, to impersonate her on the jury; Krystina, a lonely housewife; and senior citizen Jeffery, who befriends Sudanese refugee Tahir.

The first episode of this five-parter expertly draws you in, the jurors having more dodgy backstory than the cast of EastEnders, and this is without the question of whether Alan Lane done it or not.

Fag-puffing QC
Julie Walters escapes from her real-character roles of Mary Whitehouse and Mo Mowlam, and the fun of Molly Weasley, to breathe a glint of spirit into fag-puffing QC Emma. We first see her bollocking a taxi driver before jousting verbally with her legal opponent on the pavement outside the Old Bailey. Very convincing she is, too.

Why is Tasha shadowing her fellow jurors?

The opener finishes with a delicious twist about a juror who has been following her fellow jurors during adjournments.

The Jury kicks off with more intrigue swirling about than the current Greek parliament. It’s pacy and leaves you wanting to know what’s coming next.

But the danger is that it becomes one of dramas that’s still piling on the twists and pregnant plotlines at 9.50pm next Friday, and finally collapses into a huge letdown.

However, Peter Morgan’s rap sheet suggests The Jury may just avoid that verdict.

Cast: Julie Walters Emma Watts, Roger Allam John Mallory, Alan Lane John Lynch, Steven Mackintosh Paul Brierley, Anne Reid Paul’s mother, Jodhi May Katherine Bulmore, Aqib Khan Rashid Jarwar, Natalie Press Lucy Cartwright, Sarah Alexander Theresa, Branka Katic Krystina Bamford, Ronald Pickup Jeffery Livingstone, Ivanno Jeremiah Tahir Takana, Lisa Dillon Tasha Williams, Rory McCann Derek Hatch
Follow @crimetimeprev

Sherlock and Luther return, plus new ITV commissions

Holmes re-boot (© BBC)

Sherlock, the most assured and enjoyable new UK crime series of the year, has been re-commissioned for autumn 2011, the Beeb has confirmed.

The inspired update of the Baker Street sleuth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was pacy, had great music and humour, and, most importantly, won 7.5 million viewers on its launch in July.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Luther is also returning with two two-hour specials. The drama starring The Wire‘s Idris Elba promised a lot, with a good cast and intriguing premise (about a genius detective), but eventually fizzled out with stories that were as convincing as spray-on hair. Still, it clearly did well enough for a recall.

Talking of the Sherlock recommission, which is coming back in three new 90-minute episodes, co-creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, say, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can’t wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There’ll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies – whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?”

The BBC also announced Undisclosed (working title), written by Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, The Hamburg Cell). It is described as “a taut and compelling mystery thriller revolving around Harry Venn, a small-time solicitor. Forced to delve into his murky past when asked to find a missing alibi witness, Venn soon finds himself caught up in a bigger and more complex conspiracy.”

Meanwhile, ITV has announced three crime dramas for 2011. There’s an Anthony Horowitz story – Injustice. It stars Jame Purefoy as William Travers, a criminal barrister recovering from traumatic events that have blasted his belief in the legal system. It follows Horowitz’s success with Collision on the channel.

Scott and Bailey will star Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in the title roles of two homicide detectives from Greater Manchester Police’s prestigious Major Incident Team.  The series is scripted by Sally Wainwright, whose drama Unforgiven won the  RTS Award for Best Drama earlier this year.

Finally, The Jury is a series about ordinary people finding themselves at the centre of a major controversial criminal re-trial. It’s written by Bafta-winner and Oscar nominee Peter Morgan.

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