Garrow’s Law DVD series 1 & 2

DVD: ★★★★½
Extras: ★★★★½

As series three of Garrow’s Law comes to a finish on BBC1 – following a tearful episode three in which Alun Armstrong’s solicitor John Southouse died – along comes the boxset featuring the complete series one and two.

These fact-based stories from the late 18th-century records of the Old Bailey, exploring the courtroom exploits of maverick barrister William Garrow, have been consistently entertaining and fascinating, throwing a light on a crude and barbaric era of British justice.

Garrow – forgotten hero
The murder of slaves, homosexuality, infanticide, treason – the early dramas have shown viewers the chilling treatment dished out at the Bailey, which basically acted as a clearing house for the rich and powerful against the poor and disenfranchised.

Along came pioneering barrister Garrow, a neglected hero from the archives until series co-creator Tony Marchant spotted his potential for this series. Here was a man who, like Atticus Finch, Horace Rumpole or Perry Mason, stood up for the underdog. The difference being that in Garrow’s day, the system was heavily tilted against defence counsel.

Andrew Buchan’s co-stars
Garrow, played by Andrew Buchan with the quiet fortitude once the speciality of James Stewart or Gregory Peck, defended the poor and desperate that other barristers turned their noses up at. Moreover, he established the right of defence lawyers to argue the case for defendants and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Until then, whatever flimsy cross-examination was done came from the judge or jurors.  

Buchan’s co-stars have fleshed out the series wonderfully, with Lyndsey Marshal sympathetic as Lady Sarah Hill, Rupert Graves horrid as her husband Sir Arthur, Aidan McArdle slippery as the prosecutor, and Michael Culkin as Judge Buller having a face straight out of a Hogarth print.

Garrow’s Law documentary
The boxset introduces Garrow as an idealistic young barrister, has the barrister fighting a pistol duel with Sylvester and sees him in the dock himself, accused by Sir Arthur of ‘criminal conversation’ (or sex, in modern parlance) with Lady Sarah, all interwoven with intriguing courtroom battles.

Special features include Behind the Scenes of Garrow’s Law and an exclusive documentary, William Garrow: Fact and Fiction.

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Garrow’s Law series 3 with Andrew Buchan PREVIEW

Andrew Buchan as William Garrow. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★

BBC1 from Sunday, 13 November, 9pm 

Story: Garrow returns to the Bailey to risk his already tarnished reputation to defend James Hadfield, on trial for High Treason for attempting to assassinate King George III at the Drury Lane theatre.

The 18th-century courtroom maverick William Garrow returns to flip the wigs of the establishment with more legal derring-do in this third series based on true events from the Old Bailey archives.

Writer and co-creator Tony Marchant revisits a momentous legal battle for Garrow revolving around the attempted murder of the King one night at the theatre. James Hadfield, a former soldier, fires at the monarch in his box and is overpowered by the audience.

Garrow and Lady Sarah

Lord Melville makes it clear that the trial will be political. After some soul searching, Garrow agrees to fight an unpopular case for Hadfield but is puzzled by how to defend him. Convinced that Hadfield is insane – god has told him to sacrifice himself or everything will perish – Garrow is stuck with a law that considers him sane because he is not a permanently raving beast.

Criminal conversation – or sex with another man’s wife
It’s a juicy opener to the series, a past winner of a Royal Television Society award and again a drama that stirs our fascination and horror at the brutality and legal crudeness of merry old England.

At the end of the last series, our barrister hero was (wrongly) convicted of ‘criminal conversation’ – or having sex with another man’s wife. He is now in an ‘irregular’ relationship with Lady Sarah Hill, who is almost as deranged as Hadfield in this episode, so distressed is she at her separation from her child by evil, bitter, nasty husband Sir Arthur.

Following the scandal, Garrow and Lady Sarah are about as popular around town as George Papandreou at a Euro knees-up with Angela and Nicolas, and are struggling financially.

Madness of King George
The cast – led by Andrew Buchan as Garrow, Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah and the spluttering Alun Armstrong as Garrow’s mentor Southouse – once again carry off the wigs and corsets with aplomb, skilfully transporting the viewer back to Newgate Prison, Bedlam and the Old Bailey.

Southouse, Lady Sarah and Garrow

It is in the notorious mental hospital of Bedlam, where people in the 18th century paid a penny to gawp at the mentally ill, that Garrow begins to form his defence. Here he learns that it is possible to be lucid most of the time, but still have a shaky grasp on reality. As usual, it is the law that is an ass.

This is a very delicate point for the barrister to get across, as the King himself is known to have a ‘mind that comes and goes’.

Garrow – fact and fiction
Garrow’s Law has shone a light on an unsung hero of history, and anyone interested in digging further into the facts of his life can start by checking out the Garrow Society website.

Otherwise, just sit back with a glass of port and goggle at the chilling spectacle of ye olde English law in action.

Cast: Andrew Buchan William Garrow, Alun Armstrong John Southouse, Lyndsey Marshal Lady Sarah Hill, Rupert Graves Sir Arthur Hill, Mark Letheren James Hadfield. Guest stars: Olivia Grant as Lady Henrietta, Sir Arthur’s mistress, Derek Riddell silk maker Matthew Bambridge, Patrick Baladi General picton, Cal Macaninch constable Lucas

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Crime latest – Jamie Bamber to return? Spooks and Morton, In the Line of Duty, The Scapegoat

• Is this the end for Jamie Bamber in Law & Order: UK? His character, DS Matt Devlin, the show’s heart-throb, was shot at the end of series five earlier this year. It’s just been announced that Paul Nicholls will be joining the cast as DS Sam Casey alongside Bradley Walsh (DS Ronnie Brooks). Casey is described as ‘headstrong’ and will help with the investigation into Devlin’s cliffhanger shooting. Stories in series six, to be shown in 2012, will include a shocking crime captured on video, a hostage hunt, cases re-opened and the past catching up with Brooks. Guests will include Tamzin Outhwaite, Toby Stephens, Eva Pope, Luke Roberts and Tim McInnerny. But does Devlin (pictured) survive the shooting? Pic: ITV

• So, Matthew Macfadyen is reprising his role as Tom Quinn in the very last episode of Spooks, which is fast approaching (Sunday, 23 October, 9pm). He left his role as head of counter-terrorism seven years ago (left), but this final series of Spooks could do with an injection of excitement. It’s been trounced in the ratings by the Beeb’s silly decision to schedule it on Sunday nights against Downton Abbey, traditionally the evening when costumes, not action, rule. And the plots, which are always a bit harebrained, have gone totally haywire, with Harry abducting the man from the CIA. So maybe it is time for him to go off with Ruth and have a rest. Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see whether the BBC’s next spy series from Kudos, called Morton, which was announced back in January, will be a decent replacement. This was about a female spy called Sam who is running for her life. The script is by X Files writer Frank Spotnitz. Gillian Anderson as a spy, anyone? It’s all very secret, as you’d expect from this genre. Pic: BBC

• Vicky McClure, who stood out for her performances in This Is England and Five Daughters, has been cast in Line of Duty, a thriller about modern coppering. Alongside her will be Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly), Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen), Lennie James (The Walking Dead) and Gina McKee (In the Loop). The theme is corruption and the five-hour drama will be shown in 2012.

• It’s great news that Garrow’s Law is returning for a third series this autumn. The idea of dramatising fascinating cases from the Old Bailey records involving the pioneering barrister William Garrow was inspired. Andrew Buchan as Garrow along with Alun Armstrong, Rupert Graves and Lyndsey Marshal have taken us a totally captivating tour back in time to the brutal 18th century, exploring the era’s attitude to slavery, homosexuality and corruption. The last series ended with Garrow wrongly convicted of ‘criminal conversation’ – or having sex with another man’s wife. As revolution sweeps France in series three, attempted regicide, industrial sabotage, election rigging and police intimidation test Garrow anew. For a terrific blog about Garrow and the series, click here.

• ITV has commissioned a period dramatisation of Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat, starring Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters) and Eileen Atkins. Rhys will play the double roles of John Standing and Johnny Spence, and Atkins will play his mother. Spence and Standing are very different men with one thing in common – their face. When they meet by chance at a station bar, their lives are changed drastically. Coming from the author of Rebecca, The Birds and Don’t Look Now, this could be a cracker of a film if it has Du Maurier’s trademark levels of suspense and twists. Producer Sarah Beardsall says, ‘The Scapegoat will take viewers on a suspenseful journey with the character of John, from friendless anonymity, to the glamour of the big house, and then to the dark reality behind it.’ Director and adapter Charles Sturridge (Handful of Dust, Shackleton) says, ‘It is a daunting challenge to follow in the footsteps of Hitchcock and Roeg in adapting this thrilling and provocative writer for the screen. I loved the story from the moment I first read it and the extraordinary mix of brilliant characters surrounding these mirror image men.’ Filming starts next month in London.

• Watch out for The Case on weekdays next week during daytime (starts Monday, 31 October, 2.15pm). Tony Powell is accused of murdering his terminally ill partner, Saskia, in this courtroom drama. He claims it was not murder, but assisted suicide. However, a video tape he and Saskia made together is missing. It stars Dean Andrews as Tony (pictured), Caroline Langrishe, Ruthie Henshall and Chanel Cresswell. Pic: BBC

• Finally, a treat on BBC Radio 2 for music and crime lovers. Friday Night Is Music Night on 4 November (8pm) is devoted to crime and police themes. The 70-piece BBC Concert Orchestra will be knocking out themes to Van Der Valk, Kojak, Hawaii 5-O, The Sweeney, The Pink Panther and more.

Garrow’s Law PREVIEW

Garrow, Lady Sarah and Southouse
(Pics: Graeme Hunter/Twenty Twenty Television)

Sunday, November 14, 9pm, BBC1

Rating ★★★★

Traditionalists who long for simpler times when the authorities really had zero tolerance for criminals must absolutely love Garrow’s Law.

The 18th century was a time when sodomy was a hanging offence and a ship’s captain could legally throw slave men, women and children overboard at sea if there wasn’t enough drinking water to go round. And, of course, most of the ‘criminals’ were what we’d today simply call poor and disadvantaged.

Series one, which first got us interested in the pioneering exploits of barrister William Garrow, was almost funny in showing us how bloody awful and iniquitous the Old Bailey was at the time. You half expected Blackadder and Baldrick to pop up every week.

Royal Television Society award
After the success of that season, inspired by the contemporary records from the Old Bailey that are now available online, and with a Royal Television Society award on the mantelpiece, co-creator Tony Marchant’s series and his starry cast are back.

And it kicks off with an extraordinary story about 133 slaves being dispatched overboard from the cargo ship The Zong. Not that the charge is mass murder, of course, but rather a legal squabble between the insurance company and the ship’s captain, whom the insurer’s think is trying to fiddle them.

As the lawyer opposing Garrow remarks, it’s a ‘case of chattels and goods, the same as horses being thrown over’. Did Captain Collingwood act so inhumanely to save the rest of the crew (after his blundering gets them lost at sea), or is there some corrupt reason for his brutality?

Andrew Buchan and Rupert Graves 
As Garrow, played once again by Andrew Buchan, the closest thing Britain has to James Stewart, searches frantically for a moral dimension to the case, his private life is in turmoil.

Lady Sarah Hill, newly returned to London with her infant son, is turned on by her jealous husband, Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves), who suspects the child might be that of her one-time admirer, Garrow. Sir Arthur and his high-ranking friends, unable to defeat Garrow in court, are determined to ruin him and Lady Sarah.

It’s a compelling mix of plotting and emotion, but the series’ magic is in the window it offers into a time when the legal process was extremely primitive. Before Garrow was re-examined in the recently posted online archives, he was obscure (not even a mention in the Oxford Companion to the Law).

Inventing the art of cross-examination
Thanks to Garrow’s Law we can glimpse this extraordinary man, years ahead of his age, outspoken and boldly anti-establishment during this phase of his career (he went on to be Attorney General and an MP).

Garrow argued for the right to put the case for defendants and virtually invented the art of cross-examining prosecution witnesses. Until then the judge or even the jury chipped in with questions. As depicted on-screen, the courtroom was chaotic, resembling a public debating chamber rather than a legal forum.

High-class lawyers were disdainful of representing the rabble dragged to court by shifty thief-takers and bounty hunters, who often gave evidence against the poor slobs they were paid to haul in.

Alun Armstrong and Lyndsey Marshal
The cast are all good, some with faces so characterful they look as though they’ve stepped out of the late 1700s (no names mentioned). Alun Armstrong is fatherly as Garrow’s mentor, Southouse, while Lyndsey Marshal manages to be strong but vulnerable as Lady Sarah.

It’s good to see this series returning. Each week’s story is dramatic and fascinating, with intrigues about the implications of being gay, about women and property, and the mistreatment of disabled sailors all to come.

If Garrow at times seems too saintly here, you still wonder what this man, so out of synch with his contemporaries, must really have been like.

Someone so dogged that he would cause uproar by calling Gustavus Vassa (actor Danny Sapani), a freed black man, to give evidence to a disbelieving court. Garrow was a man who could  really make enemies, and it’s great to watch him doing it.
• Tony Marchant has done an interesting blog about dramatising Garrow’s Law on the BBC site.

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