Silk, Tuesdays 9pm, BBC1

Now, I was looking forward to this new offering from dear old Auntie Beeb, a legal drama starring Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones, written by Peter Moffat. With a background in the law, he’s the chap who wrote the excellent North Square (which Channel 4 criminally dropped after 1 series – why, Channel 4, WHY?) and, more recently, Criminal Justice (which I have heard was excellent but looked far too grim and harrowing for me). Set in chambers in London, it follows defence barrister Martha Costello (Peake) in her quest to be made QC (the ‘Silk’ of the title). Martha is driven, passionate and prone to spouting the odd homily, e.g. “Innocent until proven guilty – four words to live by”. Her rival for this honour is Penry-Jones’ arrogant, coke-snorting Clive Reader, clearly a bit of a shit.

In this first episode our Martha had two cases, one involving a pregnant drugs mule and the other a man with plenty of ‘previous’ who was accused of aggravated burglary, plus a new pupil, Nick, to look after, all the while trying to impress judges and solicitors that might help her get Silk.

On the whole Silk was…………..quite good. Here, in handy bullet points, are the good bits:

  • The cast – Maxine Peake, as you’d expect, is great, and it makes a nice change to see Rupert Penry-Jones having some fun as the git of the piece (although thus far he’s not wholly unlikeable). I also liked Tom Hughes as Nick, and Neil Stuke as senior clerk Billy.
  • The pace – the hour didn’t drag, with Martha haring between chambers and court the scenes were quite short and helped to highlight how hectic her life is.
  • I’ve read (here) that generally the show is fairly realistic, and captures the high-pressure nature of the job. That certainly came across, with Martha only having one night to prepare for the two cases and with so much at stake.

Now for the not so good:

  • Some of the dialogue was a bit clunky: “Fifteen years you’ve been doing this, and you still believe”, the aforementioned “Innocent until proven guilty – four words to live by”. Oh purleese…..
  • It was a tad predictable, in both plot and character – the revelation that the fellow Martha got off from the aggravated burglary charge was guilty after all was hardly a shocker. The characters so far are pretty clichéd, ‘tough determined Northern lass’ and ‘privileged arrogant Southern posho’ types.
  • The bit where Nick stole a gown and wig, and when he told Martha about it she just rolled her eyes? Not remotely believable.
  • Peake’s/Martha’s inability to pronounce ‘burglary’ (she kept saying ‘burgulry’) really pecked my head.

I’ll tune in again next week, because I think there’s enough there to make for an enjoyable hour’s TV. I just don’t think I’ll panic if I happen to miss an episode…..

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