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Law & Order: UK, Episode 1: Care

It occurred to me that not yet having posted a review might imply I didn't like Law & Order: UK, which isn't the case. Granted, it's no Battlestar Galactica, but it's also no Ultimate Force (Thank God!). My intent was to post Tuesday afternoon, but I became distracted by the now famous Peta ad featuring Jamie. That was followed by two nights socializing with people (in real life...eeeee!) and a podcast recap that had to be shared. Now, with new BSG tomorrow night to consume my attention, I figured I'd better get my thoughts posted.



"We're not just pretty faces, you know?"

Matt Devlin to Alesha Phillips


No, Jamie, you're more than a pretty face, but, damn, it's sometimes hard to get past it. I'll get the shallow out of the way first. Jamie looks incredible in this series. In his first few scene it was hard to focus on anything but him. Not that he doesn't look good on BSG, but the show is so dark, both in terms of the filming as well as subject matter, it was nice to see him outside, under the sun and sky, and for him to have the opportunity to joke and to smile. While the show deals with serious crimes, it's not bleak and it was a joy to see a lighter side to Jamie.

I must mention the opening credits. I'm a fan of credits that show you the actor along with their name on screen. It's particularly helpful with new shows to be able to put a name with a face. I never had an issue with BSG not doing it because it was the rare show that used their credit sequence to help tell the story. So I was geeked to see Jamie's face and name together. It's also nice to see him progress up the credit ranks. ;)

I've read some, in my opinion, overly critical reviews. Perhaps the Law & Order franchise and procedurals in general will not translate to the British audience. One critic was put off by the touches of humor during the investigation of a murdered baby. While I feel humor is used as a coping mechanism for those that have to deal with such horrific cases on a daily basis, it's also in keeping with the other Law & Order series. (And Matt's insistence that he didn't kill a goldfish he was given, it was ailing when he received it, cracked me up. :) I also suspect that some people are just unhappy with importing American shows to the UK.

Is Law & Order:UK as good as it's predecessor? Right now, I'd say no. Most network and basic cable series have had to deal with shorter run times to make way for more advertising. Long conversations between characters are rare. And shows such as Law & Order that need to present and solve a crime in under 44 minutes have to move at a brisk pace. The UK version I felt took that to the extreme. The 'Law' portion was a series of quick cuts and rapid fire scenes, many lasting less then a minute. Even the characters seemed to talk faster than would be considered the norm. It was very difficult to follow the investigation and I became confused as to who they were talking about unless the character was on screen. The 'Order' side moved at a slower pace and was easier to follow. Is the series progresses, I hope adjustments are made in the scripting and editing.

Dick Wolf has hope that 'UK' will be added to the NBC lineup, possibly Saturday night. Even in that relative TV dead zone, I don't see it happening. While the look is very similar to it's American predecessor, from the hand held cameras to the iconic music and black screen that takes you from one scene to the next, there is enough that is too different. People will have a hard time grasping the concept of a detective without a gun. And the wigs! Even I had a hard time not being amused by them. (To be honest, I don't understand why they are still in use. Maybe someone can explain it to me.) And I've watched quite a bit of British TV and film over the years, I'd say more than the average American, yet some British terms still escaped me. I do feel the series could find an audience in the U.S., but on a cable network where expectations would be smaller.

As for the plot of 'Care', I didn't find it particularly interesting or compelling which is odd because, usually, a story involving a dead child would really get to me. Part of the problem was the guilty parties had the minimum of character development and weren't particularly well acted. You could pretty much tell who was going to be arrested thirty seconds after being introduced to them. And I felt the defense attorney was too nice on cross examination, but perhaps British attorneys (I should probably be using barrister?) are more civil.

I had several smaller quibbles. The teaser was confusing. Given recent terror attacks, I understood the two police officers fear and hesitation in opening the bag left outside the hospital, but shouldn't their job have been to just secure the area and call in the bomb squad? Unzipping the bag slowly and hoping for the best seemed a poor way to handle the situation. Jamie's accent was a bit inconsistent (as it was in the BSG mini and got better). I'm not a fan of the theme music, but perhaps that is an American bias since it seemed in keeping with other British TV shows I've seen. And I found it hard to buy that Matt and Ronnie have been working together for years, yet Matt is just discovering Ronnie can speak French.

As for the cast, they were all good. Freema Agyeman I thought would be the weak link, but I found her to be a stronger actress than some of her U.S. counterparts.
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How is this available to U.S. audiences, Mary, is it online, or was it on BBC America? I'd really like to see it. Any opportunity to see Jamie in the sun :)
Unfortunately, right now, no network or online service is carrying it. The kicker is, Bradley Walsh, who plays Jamie's partner, stated on a British morning show that the series was being downloaded in the U.S. ITV apparently knows what is going on. Hopefully, that will speed up getting it on the air here.
Wigs are still worn in the UK and Australia because of tradition, but originally they were worn as a measure of anonymity - so the accused (or friends of) couldn't recognise opposing counsel or the judge outside of the courtroom. Judges tended to wear longer wigs that covered the ears as well.

The smaller versions are more practical, but as they don't conceal identity anymore, I guess it's more about tradition and respecting the court itself. ie. the judges and barristers should be looked up to.

The pacing seemed similar to the original L&O, at least back in the early years when I watched it. I think the show has slowed down a bit in recent years. And even as someone who has no problem with British accents on television or in film had a hard time with some of the dialogue in this rapid-fire setting.
Thanks for the information. In general, I'm a supporter of tradition, but I'm still having trouble grasping why anyone would want to keep the wigs. ;)

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one having trouble making out what they were saying. I usually don't have a problem with accents. I suppose the rapid fire delivery could account for the problem.

I haven't seen any first season episodes of L&O and very few of the next couple of seasons. TNT tends to just repeat the later seasons and I rarely watch the show when it airs on NBC. I just assumed the pace has been the same since the beginning.
i finished watching it about 20 minutes ago, and structurally it isn't my cup of tea. i enjoyed it for what it was, in the sense that i generally don't watch these sorts of shows, and still found it engaging enough to not make me want to turn it off or even pause it. which is a good thing.

that being said, i loved jamie in it! i flailed rather unceremoniously when he started talking, because i love his accent, and i love how his voice is different than lee's. i know this is a rather selfish thing to say, but i would love for him to get more character-centered roles. there is depth to him as an actor, and he doesn't really get to use it here. as far as i understood, bsg-style character development isn't want the show-runners are aiming for here. which is a pity, really, becase i never saw how well rounded characters who are more than what the plot requires them to be can hurt a show. ;)

i'll probably follow the series for him - i also like harriet walter quite a bit - but it doesn't interest me enough to ever become a fandom.
I agree the series doesn't allow him to show his full range or depth. Putting aside he needs to paycheck to support his family (and he could have ended up attached to far worse projects), I do wonder if it's a nice break for him, to have a less complex role to play, after five years on BSG. From interviews I've read, they all seemed emotionally drained at the end of filming.

I'll watch anything Jamie is in and I've watched a lot of the various incarnations of L&O and enjoyed them for what they are, but beyond jotting down a few thoughts about the episodes, I don't see myself getting involved in fandom...if one exists. ;)
Hee, I was excited all day on Monday on your behalf, and set my video recorder, but when I started watching I couldn't stop giggling at Jamie's accent. It's not that there's anything so very disastrously wrong with it, it was just a surprise! Anyway, I plan to get up bright and early in the morning tomorrow and watch some unadulterated Jamie without any interruptions/distractions - even the two minutes I did manage to get through were just as pretty as you describe. :)
Hee. It's odd, over the years, there were many Americans surprised to find out that Lee Adama's portrayer had a British accent. Now, I'm seeing Brits shocked to find out Jamie is one of their own! Good thing he has dual citizenship. ;)
Hee, I can't decide whether I was expecting Lee-voice or DVD-extras Jamie, but the "mockney" accent was definitely a surprise. Fortunately, it's stopped being so distracting. Although I still can't claim to be wholly focused on the plot. :)