Law and Order (1978)

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BBC Two (ended 1978)

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7.3
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SHOW REVIEWS
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Law and Order (1978)

Show Summary

Law and Order was a highly-controversial drama series looking at the legal system through the sequence of events from the commission of a crime, through the police investigation and trial to the imprisonment of the man convicted of that crime. Individual episodes related these events from the perspectives of those involved, and highlighted the corruption and cynicism of police officers, lawyers and prison staff.
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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Best Cop/Crime Show of all time

    10
    Law and Order is a typical American television show that establishes it's the very smart idea of plot making. Contrasting to any other cop / criminal show- it doesn't need to have overrated chasing car scenes with lots of gunfire and murders to become a successful one. This series is one of the top rated TV series of all time and this show could run forever but like any other show all must come to an end that's why it made me decide to place and grab a DVD copy of this show at memorylanedvd . com . This seller delivered my DVDs just within the exact promised timeframe. What's more surprising is the DVDs I received was well-packaged and the quality is good. This boxset will be surely a treasured memorabilia for every Law and Order fans like me!moreless
  • L & O

    10
    SORRY.
  • Forget The Wire - this is the best crime drama ever made.

    10
    All the "best TV ever made" hype over the Wire got me thinking about what the best cop/crime drama ever made really is (I like the Wire, but it isn't the best - in fact I preferred its Baltimore-based predecessor, Homicide: Life On The Streets).



    Then the BBC provided the answer by re-screening by far the most stunning, eye-opening crime drama ever made; the original four-part Law and Order miniseries from 1978.



    This show has nothing to do with the glossy U.S. drama of the same name - in fact it's the absolute opposite. Set on the same central London patch as the Sweeney (another of my favourites) it made the Sweeney, famed for its grittiness when first shown, look like an episode of Watch with Mother. The four plays examine a story of crime and punishment from four viewpoints, using the self-consciously Chaucerian titles of A Detective's Tale, A Villain's Tale, A Brief's Tale and A Prisoner's Tale. The world they depict is one of unrelenting bleakness and corruption - virtually every copper (the plain clothes ones, at least) is on the take, witnesses are coerced into perjuring themselves in return for having their own charges dropped, and the central villain, Jack Lynn, is "fitted" for a crime he didn't commit (although he'd committed many others) because the police, frustrated at failing to nick him for an earlier job, decide it's "his turn". The Metropolitan (London) Police were so outraged when Law and Order was first shown that they temporarily withdrew all cooperation with the BBC. A few years later Operation Countryman, a massive corruption investigation at the Met, showed that writer G.F. Newman (of Judge John Deed fame) was far less wide of the mark than they'd claimed. But you could tell that when watching it. Shot in a flat, documentary style, it's like being a fly on the proverbial wall as Inspector Fred Pyall meets with his snouts, discusses "little bits of bother" with his fellow officers, and concocts his plan to put Lynn away. Nothing is smoothly or neatly done - the lighting's harsh, the camera angles awkward, characters stumble and pause, scenes tail off into silence as they run out of things to say. The language, full of corrupt officers getting "little tastes" and villains being "well overdue", would have sounded overdone in something more slickly produced. Instead it sounds like Newman reproducing what he'd heard in real pubs and snooker halls (which of course it was).



    It was this dull, uncompromising realism that gave the series its impact, because you couldn't watch anything this obviously true to life without feeling that there must be more than a grain of truth in its message about the state of Britain's criminal justice system.



    The overriding (and extremely depressing) impression is of everyone in the system - villains, police, lawyers, judges, prison officers - being corrupted by it. Lynn and Pyall are two sides of the same coin; resourceful, amoral men who are out for their own ends and willing to resort to criminal behaviour to get them. Lynn's solicitor manages to represent his client's interests while simultaneously doing deals with Pyall; his barrister is keen to defend him only once he's been assured that he has sufficient funds stashed away. Everyone recognises everyone else as players in the game; actual justice doesn't come into it. Unfortunately the BBC kept pretty quiet about the reruns of Law and Order (perhaps the Met are still a bit touchy, even after 30 years). As I write there's just one left, the Prisoner's Tale (in some ways the bleakest of the lot) tomorrow (April 14th 2009) at 10.45pm on BBC4. My advice - watch it, and bombard the BBC with repeat requests for the other three (they repeat most things to death on their digital channels anyway). If you like great, gritty crime drama, you won't regret it - but you might never be able to watch the Sweeney in quite the same way again.



    On a lighter note, the two main characters in Law and Order are played by actors who went on to become stalwarts of BBC soap EastEnders. Jack Lynn is played by Peter Dean, who played Pete Beale for many years, while Insp Fred Pyall is played (brilliantly) by Derek Martin, who's now better known as cuddly, lovable Albert Square cabbie Charlie Slater. He's neither cuddly nor lovable in Law and Order, believe me!moreless

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