The Verdict, BBC2

by | Feb 11, 2007 | All, Reviews

With additional comment from thecustard.tv legal expert Canley Stickler Volleymore, who has no law qualifications but is renowned throughout the land for his ability to win cases through his blunt, bludgeoning Brummie whine, which, when not being used in court, is employed by alien architects to crush unstable yellow suns into more manageable white dwarves.

What’s our Verdict?

Anyone in Britain who isn’t famous, let’s just give up on our careers, friends, families and ambitions and gain all pleasure in our lives from watching minor celebrities perform tasks at which they’re not very good, all at the behest of TV companies who are now churning out programmes with all the care and discrimination of bored home helps shovelling yoghurt in to the dribbling mouths of pensioners wracked with senile dementia.

The case for the defence:

•One of the most unpleasant politicians of the last decade seems to have undergone a spiritual resurrection. Michael Portillo comes across as intelligent, well-mannered, fair-minded and “the voice of reason”; but given that his fellow jurors include Patsy Palmer, Stan Collymore and Megaman, it might just be a relative piety.

Mr Volleymore: “With the greatest of respect, there’s nothing to suggest that Portillo is ‘the voice of reason’. Where’s your evidence? Flip it on its head. Flip it on its head. Flip it on its head.”

• The courtroom scenes were well-acted by the cast, and the legal teams went about their business in an efficient and professional manner awarding an insight into the mechanics of a contemporary court.

Mr Volleymore: “Well-acted? Where’s your evidence for that? Flip it on its head. You can’t sit on a high horse and make judgements about whether they’ve acted well without evidence, end of story.”

• Of the jurors, Ingrid Tarrant refuses to be bullied by Stan Collymore; Sara Payne is single-minded and refuses to be intimidated by Collymore; Jennifer Ellison keeps saying what she thinks she is supposed to say; Alex James rarely talks in the main group and makes his most intelligent points alone to the camera; while Patsy Palmer is intellectually out of her depth but did add to the discussions with her own experience of when she was assaulted.

Mr Volleymore: “You are dealing too much in facts here. Flip it on its head. You’ve got to build up a gut feeling.”

The case for the prosecution:

• Much like Consent, Channel 4’s superior examination of the rape laws in the UK, the BBC is theatrically hamstrung by the appallingly low level of convictions. As a responsible broadcaster it is morally-bound not to encourage the perception that young women falsely cry rape – the consequence in The Verdict being that the young men must be guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.

Mr Volleymore: “It’s not your job to speculate. You can’t work on a gut feeling; you’ve got to base everything on evidence. Flip it on its head.”

• And this is made worse that one of the accused, Damien Scott, is a “very successful” footballer. On the one hand, it seems as if the lingering notion that viewers are incapable of taking an interest in something unless those involved are famous (thanks for that Heat, OK! et al) is being compounded or even pandered to.

• While on the other hand, it seems to be part of a snobbery agenda that vilifies young working class men for being wealthy. And that even though all of the recent accusations of rape or other misdemeanour against footballers have been unproven, the inevitable guilt of the footballer in this case is to implicitly suggest that footballers are capable of misbehaviour, but also can afford the best legal advice in the country to get off. Indeed, in an exchange between the two defence barristers, George Carter-Stephenson remarks that Scott “wasn’t very chivalrous”, to which Jane Humphryes replies sourly, “But these days a lot of them aren’t.”

• The superficial stage-managed case has been too moulded for TV drama. Firstly, the alleged rape victim Anna was seen to lie in the witness stand that she was a virgin before she had sex (consensual or otherwise) with Damien. And secondly, that Anna’s friend Claire had sold her story for which a tabloid had paid her £30,000, which seemed false and implanted to create drama. Perhaps they were both included to confound the public expectation that such events should dispel all truth in the accusations but alongside the pointlessness of a celebrity jury, we would tend to believe it was for sensationalism and plot.

• The manner in which the odious Jeffrey Archer has been edited to appear sinister, creepy and vile simply to align with the indelible viewer perception of him and so that when he menacingly says that he will listen to Jennifer Ellison’s opinion more than others because of her supposed recent experience at men “coming onto” her, it makes him seem like a serial caller to a premium sex phone line. The manipulation here is to warp viewers into feral wolves thrashing about on the end of a leash; fangs salivating with a righteous hatred of Archer, but a hatred all the same that has been cultivated in a plush editing suite rather than in the minds of the viewers.

• The impression that the celebrities have been chosen partly to entice idiots who can’t watch something without the presence of non-famous people, but to also eavesdrop on tittle-tattle. Of course, Sara Payne revealing to Michael Portillo how she copes with her grief of the death of her daughter Sarah was moving, poignant and gripping, but it was also utterly irrelevant to the case in hand. We felt sullied as if we had for that one moment been transformed into one of the 3AM girls, pursing our lips, making a “shush” expression and sacrificing our dignity on the altar of toxic gossip.

• When Michael Portillo squints, all his facial features recede to the centre of his face like a desiccating waterhole in the African grasslands, retreating so rapidly that they leave behind on his cheeks the skeletal remains of a crocodile or the flabby folds of a dead hippo.

Mr Volleymore: “Don’t go there. Can you show me the evidence of crocodile skeletons? If you can provide me with DNA evidence of crocs or hippos on his face then I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say you’re right, but until then you’ve just got to go on just the evidence. Flip it on its head.”

• Megaman’s call that there was “too much emotion” in the jury room, before shortly afterwards embarking on a highly-strung rant about how he had to endure three trials before he was found innocent of murder.

• Millionaire businessman Dominic McVey speaks as if each word coming from his mouth has just been dragged waterlogged and barely conscious from a nearby river.

Mr Volleymore: “Hand on heart, can you show me the evidence of this river? Flip it on its head. I’ve been rewinding, rewinding, rewinding and I see no evidence of a river.”

• The way in which a conversation between the barristers in the courtroom continued moments later in the corridor, while a camera had been magically been perfectly positioned to capture them talking.

Mr Volleymore: “It’s not your job to speculate. I’m absolutely terrified that bright, intelligent people like you are directed to do a job of reviewing this TV programme, yet you seem hell-bent on bringing so many other things to the table. Flip it on its head. Flip it on its head. Flip it on its head. Flip it on its head.”

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

11/02/2007

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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