Tuesday, March 08, 2011

British Legal Drama, Barristers and Those Stupid Wigs...

The BBC is running a new legal drama called Silk. I watched my first episode tonight and the verdict: dire.

It is plodding, panders to prejudice and convention, and looks tired. Something goes wrong when the Brits do legal drama. OK, that's a sweeping generalization, but it's not too far wrong. And this show makes it seem so even more.

If you want to see good ones then you have to go back to North Square and Rumpole. Admittedly the last is a joke yet it's a good joke and much missed. North Square, perhaps because it was based in Leeds, did have a grittiness about. It's real secret, however, was the clerk, McLeish.

In Silk all the stock characters are there. The ambitious one, the driven woman who has doubts about her femininity, the insecure one, and the hard-bitten trainee who will get the job at any price. Then they plod to the courts and do their schtick. In this episode every member of chambers, including the prosecutor, was present in court--extremely incestuous.

Rather like North Square the only character that interests me is the barrister's clerk. He's usually the guy (rarely a woman: in fact never on TV) in the sharp suit (better tailor than his barristers) accompanied by a quasi-Cockney accent and who smokes. No one else does, of course. He's the one who gets the work and does the necessary dirty deeds.

In this episode a black female barrister, Kate, accuses the clerk, Billy (always called by their first names), of not wanting to persuade solicitors to pay her fees. She catches him in the hallway and demands he gets her aged fee of £9000. He claims to have tried, but she won't have it and says he is pandering to the solicitors in order to get higher paying work for senior barristers at her expense. In the programme it's clearly true.

Later we see the first junior clerk--also black--reporting to Kate that he has got at least half of her aged fee. Gosh, lines are drawn between the avant-garde and the oldies in chambers. Does this mean revolution is in the wind? Would they ever get rid of those stupid horse hair wigs? The Bar has survived for over 500 years so far so no breath-holding, please.

Yes, we see soft-hearted lawyers trying their damnedest for their clients and hardened types who say just get on with it...lose some, win some... Yes, every bloody cliche in the book (oops, that's one) is thrown at us. And apparently there is QC who is the legal adviser to the show. I would advise her to have her name removed quickly or do an Alan Smithee.

Despite all that, I'm probably going to watch it again. I'm a sucker for these shows, but at least I can write it off as work (yes, I was doing my research last night...) which is more than you can.
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