Sunday, August 08, 2010

Law & Order: UK -- first impression

I watched my first episode of Law & Order: UK this evening. The episode was entitled Paradise, from Series 1, and dealt with multiple murders, the victims being from London's Turkish community. I had high hopes for this show. I've enjoyed all the spin-offs from the original franchise; Special Victims Unit and Trial By Jury, in particular. However, I'm already disappointed by what I've seen so far, even considering it's just a single episode.

My biggest complaint centres on the pacing: it's much slower than any of its American counterparts, unnecessarily expounding on information that is clear, and breaking for a number of scored sequences with no dialogue. The latter, while clearly attempting to convey some poignancy, was overused and, frankly, smacked of state propaganda. ("See? We know immigrants are people too!")

Scenes with detective inspectors and crown prosecutors wandering along streets and by the Thames, while perfectly normal in a well-paced story, left my wandering mind with the impression of laissez-faire attitudes. And before someone comments on this, I know they''ll want to highlight the city it's set in, but that doesn't mean it needs to steal the show. The Republic of Doyle is a great example of a show with great pace that captures the best of St. John's and her people.

Next on my list of complaints is the tone and format of the show: a good example of the former would be the first scene with the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service, and I'll simply point to the meagre courtroom time in reference to the latter at this point.

Castle's performance in particular nettled me because that role -- the DAs of the American shows -- is normally occupied by the smartest person on the screen. They're normally two steps ahead of their prosecutors, and usually shed new light on the information presented to that point, while dictating how the trial will go. However, not only did Castle fail utterly in this regard, he openly attacked his prosecutors with an argument that you'd expect of any layperson off the street. He was downright common, and made his bumbling prosecutors seem brilliant in comparison.

Finally, I present some complaints that could be classified as procedural anomalies. I'm not familiar with British law -- that's actually why I was excited about the show: I know more about the American legal system after watching those shows for many years, and hoped to get some idea of where it differs from the British one -- but, in at least a few cases, these anomalies strike me as fundamental; still, as always, please comment if I've missed the mark:
  • I don't remember hearing anyone read the Miranda warning, which is used in England, as I understand it.
  • Having tracked their best lead to the hospital, the police imply that they'll arrest him, but never do so on screen. They then conduct an interview in his hospital room, during which his barrister hardly utters a word. (A theme that is to continue.) Now while this may be procedure for grievously ill suspects, it just struck me as odd that no evidence for the trial was gathered through interviews at the police station. Which brings me to one of the biggest anomalies I noticed...
  • When the accused is brought in, it's the prosecutors that do so, and the interview takes place at their offices. The police have no on-screen involvement. How is it appropriate for a prosecutor to (aggressively) interview the accused prior to trial? And, again, his barrister hardly utters a peep.
  • Finally, as hinted at earlier, the trial offered very little in the way of entertainment, while mercilessly attempting to yank away on the heart-strings. The accused's barrister was silent -- silent! -- throughout the sequence, even when, at one point, my mind screamed, "Objection! Calls for speculation!"
I will watch a few more episodes. It's possible that I happened upon the worst of the bunch. While most of the dialogue struck me as wooden, I did enjoy a few of DI Ronnie Brooks' lines, and look forward to seeing more of him.