Did we like it?
A classy, busy, bustling character-driven drama that rubs shoulders uncomfortably with the low-lifes of courtroom cliché and sensual ciphers.
What was good about it?
• If you’re prepared to overlook the conceit of having the two rival chambers (who appear to deal with all criminal cases in Manchester) piled on top of one another in the same building as a metaphorical Heaven and Hell, then the dramatic set up works perfectly as loose cannons from each chambers can deal with their avowed enemies.
• Episode one resembled a dog giving birth in that you just didn’t know how many plot strands were going to emerge from its heaving womb. First out was Jack being accused, and ultimately convicted, of perverting the course of justice after he coached his client who was up on a charge connected to the murder of a child. It was essentially Jack’s personal beliefs clashing with the inflexibility of the legal system (“I’m being fitted up for being too damn good at my job!). It was well-played and acted, especially by John Hannah as Jack, who has the advantage of looking as if the whole weight of the worries of the world is being supported by his furrowed brow.
• The sly, ambiguous Frank Halcroft (Francis Magee) who is trying to seduce Honor Scammell, long-suffering wife of the draconic Laurence, Jack’s arch-enemy, while helping to reduce the punishment Jack will receive for his legal indiscretions.
• The sombre nature of Jack’s case was contrasted with the pantomime of a barmaid-cum-football agent who was accused of siphoning £2,000 from the credit card of a crooked football manager. In the end, both of them got their comeuppance.
• Paul Freeman as Laurence Scammell, who is the devious figurehead of the rival chambers but who we also remember for having his face melted in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What was bad about it?
• The use of dumb peripheral ciphers who have suffered some misfortune that enables them to chuck away their moral compass and act with an uncontained sense of injustice and betrayal – namely the man whose daughter had been murdered who took revenge by proxy on Jack and Laura and Annie’s cuckolded husband Chris. On the surface, both had valid claims to be angry but because they were only presented superficially it meant that they cam across as little more than irritants.
• Other than Jack’s noble refusal to submit to the strictures of the legal system, there wasn’t much to separate the court scenes from a million other court scenes in a million other legal dramas, sure there was the odd clever, legal twist but nothing that smashed through the TV screen and bit you off with its brazen invention.