Did we like it?
As far as legal dramas set in Manchester go, this was inferior to BBC3’s witty, fresh and sadly shortlived Outlaws – but it was better than The Brief and Judge John Deed and we’d rather an hour of mainstream TV was filled with this fairly lightweight affair than monstrosities such as Davina, DIY SOS or any of the dreadful sitcoms BBC1 inflicts on us.
What was good about it?
• There’s a clear posh versus poor battle going on, so you can take sides and cheer on your favourites as the do battle in court. We favoured the poor lot – Jack Roper (John Hannah) and his penny-pinching crew, nibbling at the crumbs of the legal system (“We’re the best defenders in town. We will fight them on the benches!”) – as they took on the posh lot – the husband-wife-daughter Scammel family who snoot around the courthouse as if they own it, remembering the good old days “when we all had Latin”.
• John Thomson’s chancer Charlie Darling was our favourite. Charlie’s a typical Thomson character – hapless working class hero – with a bit of erudition, and almost campness, thrown in. He even supplements his negligible income by writing restaurant reviews for the Didsbury Times.
• Head clerk Al Ware, played by Corrie old boy Chris Gascoyne, is gay. No fuss, no issues, no big deal; he’s just gay. And that’s how it should be.
• The featured cases were vaguely interesting – a pierced-up goth girl was charged with arson at her family home; and a conman and his bimbo accomplice were accused of defrauding a man with a cough. And we liked the way the trials were shown as if they were Match Of The Day highlights packages.
• The cameo appearance by Sunetra ‘No Angels’ Sarker as a sandwich delivery girl.
What was bad about it?
• Only on TV do crimes get solved by lawyers during court cases. The credibility of the opening episode fell alarmingly when Jack Roper turned private eye to get goth girl cleared.
• In BBC3’s Outlaws, lead character Bruce Dunbar (Phil Daniels) lived in the real world, resorting to any cynical tactics to get his client off. But in New Street Law, we have to suffer the high-mindedness of Roper (“The truth – either it matters to you or it doesn’t. It’s like an affliction.”). He might as well have had ‘IDEALISTIC’ stamped on his forehead to help thicker viewers (as long as they’re not so thick that they don’t know what the word means).
• In the opening episode, Lee Williams and Lisa Faulkner were reduced to eye candy status
• Roper runs to work with a backpack on their back. People who do that should be strapped to sofas and force fed doughnuts.
• The lack of research behind the claim that Charlie’s Didsbury Times restaurant reviews earn him £250 each!