ITV saved!

Well, probably not, but amid all the obituaries for this once-great, now-bust broadcaster, may I make a case for something really good on ITV1? It’s that rare thing, a successful translation of a US drama: Law & Order | UK. For those that aren’t up to speed, the long-running American original, which has been going since 1990 – 1990! – has a simple premise: each hour-long episode covers one stand-alone case and follows it through from investigation and arrest to prosecution and verdict. Simple. But brilliant.

Thus, it’s a show of two halves: the cops and the silks; law and – geddit? – order. In our version, which is currently recycling scripts from the American version by Britishing them up in a very effective way, that’s Bradley Walsh as crumpled, divorced old cop, Jamie Bamber as pretty, idealistic new cop and Harriet Walter as wry, seen-it-all commanding officer; and Ben Daniels (who I once saw in a bathroom shop) as not-crumpled-but-actually-well-turned-out, possibly-not-divorced old-ish prosecutor, Freema Agyeman as pretty, idealistic new prosecutor and Bill Paterson as wry, seen-it-all CPS boss. A cracking cast – the biggest revelation among whom is Bradley Walsh, who seems born to play DI Ronnie Brooks. I never saw him on Coronation St, so only know him as himself ie. insufferable, certainly on Maestro, where he seemed pathologically unable to stop messing about. But a fine actor. Who knew? And the quality of one-show-only guest starts they’ve managed to line up is an almost Red Riding-like parade of TV talent: Patrick Malahide, Dervla Kirwan, Lesley Manville, Juliet Aubrey, Sean Pertwee, with Iain Glen to come next week. (Alright, so Sean Pertwee is a bit “in reception”, but I’m always glad to hear his unique throaty voice, even in a supporting role as the boss of a paintballing company.)

Allison Graham in my very own Radio Times was down on it, but I think she may be too enamoured of the original to give it a fair crack of the whip. Three episodes in, and I’d say it’s really shaping up to be appointment-to-view. That’s a drama on ITV1. I repeat: a drama, on ITV1. (Ratings have slipped a bit from a solid 6m debut to closer to 5m, but let’s hope that plateaus out. And that ITV doesn’t cancel all drama, of course.)

The best part is: I’ve never seen Law & Order | US.

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