The Innocence Project, BBC1

by | Nov 9, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Despite the lingering aura of Scooby Doo’s ‘pesky kid’ crime fighting accomplices, this was an innovative take on a genre often mired in dissolute doppelgangers and fatuous frauds.

What was good about it?

• The intelligent plot that led the law students along a convoluted trail as they tried to secure the release of Luke Talbot, convicted of murder 17 years ago. The students’ college professor Jon Ford (Lloyd Owen) acted as an almost God-like figure guiding them along in the investigation, ushering them towards clues that would help get Talbot freed, and admonishing them should they become too impetuous or cocky.

• Even if were a little dubious about the TV eugenics that meant the cast look as though they’d won the roles courtesy of a reality show called “Keep ugly bastards off my telly” (see below), the characters were distinct and by the end of the first episode mostly likeable. There’s the slightly icy but scarily efficient Beth who shares a simmering mutual attraction with cocky, ladies’ man Nick. Nick gets a hard time from Jon, but that’s only because it’s implied that Jon sees much of his younger self in Nick, and rescued his career when he saved him from a ruinous conviction for dealing in dodgy DVDs.

• However, our favourite from the first episode was Adam. Perhaps getting carried away with the job, he tried to do some undercover work in the laboratory responsible for analysing the forensic evidence in Talbot’s case. After bluffing his way into a lab, a scientist soon saw through his endearing, but hopelessly naïve efforts to extort information from her and had him removed by security. Yet he had made such an impression on her with his noble crusade that she helped him out later anyway.

• It’s dull and uneventful. Now usually that would be a black mark cast against any drama and punishable by drowning in the 10.45 on a Tuesday slot; but somehow the very restraint shown by The Innocence Project to refrain from using punch-ups, car chases and even nail-biting but artificial jury verdicts made it more admirable. And when Jon lambasted Nick for getting into a fight in order to get his hands on the fingerprints of the prime suspect he seemed to be doing so as a totemic pledge that the programme would abstain from violence. The doctrine had so embedded itself by the end of episode one that there wasn’t even that nagging sense of irritation you get from other shows such as Spooks when the villain doesn’t get their deserved comeuppance.

What was bad about it?

• The cast is far too beautiful for a supposedly arbitrary bunch of law students to converge to look into miscarriages of justice. If the whole of the male cast of Hollyoaks coagulated into a ball of fleshy pulchritude and was injected with a dose of proper drama training and talent, then Nick – model salon raven hair that when combed over his head looks like a panther luxuriating in the sun, tan from the beach of parents’ Caribbean island – and Adam – virgin’s disposition, needs to be mothered – would be the offspring.

• Initially, Sarah was shaping up as one of the most annoying characters we’ve seen on TV in a long time; the BBC equivalent of a festering splinter trapped beneath the skin that causes the surrounding area to melt into a shocking mass of gooey inflamed skin. As Jon outlined the aims of the Innocence Project, she piped up about Darwin, and later explained the origin of the word ‘sabbatical’. All of which seemed to be a shorthand way to say “yes, she’s got a working class accent but she’s very intelligent”; but her working class roots also were clumsily demonstrated when she impressed the boys by opening a beer bottle on the edge of the table. Thankfully, such indulgence stopped about halfway through and she became much more likeable as a result.

• The near-parody of the Spooks conversation walk. But instead of three walking abreast, the narrower corridors of the university mean only two can walk side-by-side while the other lags slightly behind.

• There is a bit of a sense of incredulity about how a bunch of inexperienced law students can pick holes in a conviction that a trained team of lawyers spent months, even years poring over. And this sense of The Innocence Project members being some kind of law superheroes wasn’t aided when Jon got Nick off his conviction for dodgy DVD dealing after spotting a blatant error by the prosecution.

• The jaunty lounge music that accompanies the team when they make a breakthrough, as though Jamiroquai are performing their squalid, pus-filled bubonic plague abominations to maintain the interest the easily bored middle-aged viewers who are only one day away from suicide if they don’t manage to listen to a favourite ditty from the twat in the hat. And for the youngsters, at a student party we could hear the Fratellis, a pseudo-seditious band who appear on free swine’s trough CDs given away to smirking Observer readers alongside other such saccharine musical eczema as Toploader and Razorlight.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

09/11/2006

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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