The hundreds of legal dramas over the decades have mostly reflected contemporary law. Perry Mason, LA Law and even The Defenders pull their cases out of their day’s headlines. Historical courtroom stories have mainly been restricted to the big screen as opposed to the smaller one. Perhaps this trend is for budgetary reasons including the weekly cost of having to provide period wardrobe for a jury, the lawyers, the witnesses and the courtroom gallery. But one series had the nerve to lose the three piece suits for proper leggings: Garrow’s Law.
Taking the action back to 18th Century when the Old Bailey hadn’t been entered by Rumpole, follows the exploits of a real lawyer (William Garrow) that brought change to England’s legal system. He’s best remembered for the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” The show covers the time when he began to be called to the bar at the Old Bailey in 1783. The scripts draw from Garrow’s actual cases. Garrow’s Law: Series 1 contains the four episodes from its freshman season on BBC One.
The first episode introduces us to the plucky Garrow (Cranford‘s Andrew Buchan). He’s a defense attorney during an era when they didn’t have the abilities of Perry Mason in a courtroom. He’s gutty enough to not allow himself to be the Washington Generals to the prosecutors’ Harlem Globetrotters. This doesn’t help him on his first big case defending a man accused of highway robbery. He blows it, but his style gets him attention from Lady Sarah Hill (Being Human‘s Lyndsey Marshal). She gets a rush from Garrow’s belief in changing the way things are done at the Old Bailey. He’s turned on by her. Only thing keeping them apart is Lord Hill (Rupert Graves). Lady Hill hires Garrow to defend a poor woman from the chance of infanticide. If he loses, she shall be put to death. The case gives him an instant reputation as the man. Episode Two has him go high profile with a client accused of being the murderous “London Monster” by the press. This pushes him even higher since he’s getting hit inside the Old Bailey and on every street corner in London from newspaper stands.
Things aren’t always good between Garrow and Lady Hill. Episode Three has him defending a wealthy man that’s arrested for raping his maid. The guy is guilty, but Garrow has to commit himself fully to the case no matter what it means to Lady Hill. Things get so nasty that there’s a duel involved in the aftermath. The final episode puts Garrow against the Crown. He must defend Joseph Hamer against a charge of treason. The government doesn’t want to lose this case to Garrow.
Garrow’s Law: Series 1 makes compelling viewing from the perspective of showing how court room procedures were altered during this era. It is a detailed mix of Law and Order and the History Channel. Garrow is an 18th century Perry Mason.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The details of the period costumes and sets look fine on the big screen. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. There’s nothing too fancy in the mix. The episodes have English subtitles for people who have issues understanding English accents.
Behind the Scenes Featurette (18:56) interviews the cast and crew about what goes into making a period piece courtroom drama. They explain the details in the script from the Old Bailey records.
William Garrow Biography is an essay about the actual man.
Photo Gallery (3:03) is a montage of production stills.
Cast Filmographies gives the background on the top six actors.
Garrow’s Law: Series 1 combines the legal drama with the period piece for a fine docudrama experience. William Garrow’s rise to stardom at the Old Bailey is compelling. The series reminds us that courtroom procedures have changed over the years. This is perfect viewing for a fan of Masterpiece Theater and Matlock.
Acorn Media presents Garrow’s Law: Series 1. Starring: Andrew Buchan, Alun Armstrong, Lyndsey Marshal and Rupert Graves. Boxset Contents: 4 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 1, 2011.
Tags: history channel, Matlock, Perry Mason