Pungent as Old Spice and smooth as cheap nylon: the BBC’s Law and Order 40 years on


Derek Martin in Law and Order

Revisiting the show reveals all the ways in which we, and television, have changed since 1978.

The BBC is screening GF Newman’s acclaimed drama Law and Order (10pm, 12 April), a series once deemed so controversial (for its depiction of corruption in the judicial system) it has never been repeated until now, in honour of its 40th birthday. Or at least, this is the line the corporation is trotting out: in truth, as it must surely realise, this particular hot potato reached room temperature long ago. Of course it’s no bad thing that the BBC has got around to showing it again; why it doesn’t make more of its archive, I don’t understand. But this isn’t to say that we’ve all been missing out in the meantime. You watch it now not to be gripped and held, but in order to note ­­– mostly with relief, but sometimes with a fleeting sense of sadness – all the ways in which we, and television, have changed in the long years since 1978.

Newman’s series comprises, in essence, four 80 minute-long plays each depicting a police investigation and its ramifications from a different point of view: the copper, the villain, the brief, the prisoner. The first episode, in which a bent detective played by Derek Martin fits up various low-rent criminals with a little help from his favourite snout, inevitably brings to mind Life on Mars (I wonder now if that was inspired in part by Law and Order) – though it comes with an authenticity, pungent as Old Spice and smooth as cheap nylon, no costume department could successfully fake. This is just what people looked like then. Its male characters, their skin the colour of chewing gum, tend to sweat lightly in the manner of cheese left out too long; …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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