Koch Vision // 2006 // 366 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kristin Munson (Retired) // April 2nd, 2008
Charlie: You look tired.
Annie: Flattery will get you nowhere.
Charlie: Shame; 'cause I was going to say your bum looked big in that.
The New Street chambers powder up their horsehair wigs for a second (and final) season of courtroom drama.
Jack Roper (John Hannah, McCallum) and his chamber of defense lawyers work downstairs from the prosecution chambers of his former mentor, Laurence Scammel (Paul Freeman, Hot Fuzz), whose daughter Laura (Lisa Faulkner,Murder in Suburbia) has recently defected to the defense team. When last we saw our ensemble, Jack was being taken into custody, Charlie and Annie were having a fling, and Joe had walked out on the practice, leaving Laura to work on Jack's defense.
* "Episode 1"
Jack has to fight for his personal and professional life when he's charged with perverting the course of justice, but he refuses to take advice from anyone. Charlie tries to keep a mouthy football agent accused of theft from serving jail time.
* "Episode 2"
A wife is suing her husband for donating £40,000 on the advice of an angel, and Annie and Laura butt heads in court and in chambers when they each represent a spouse. Jack defends a gangster he once prosecuted for murder against drug smuggling charges.
* "Episode 3"
Jack and Annie reunite with the barrister who saved Jack's career when they represent one of a pair of teen girls charged with murder, but their defense strategy falls apart when the other girl's mother interferes. Charlie represents a woman whose botched collagen injections left her with a pair of clown lips. The defense chambers have to make a decision on whether to make Joe a permanent member, but Joe might beat them to the punch.
* "Episode 4"
Jack and Annie defend a father in a sexual assault case where the victim recovered memories of her molestation under hypnosis. Charlie goes to court on behalf of an old client who wants sports day reinstated at his son's school.
* "Episode 5"
Annie and Charlie represent a young boxer accused of participating in a gang rape. When tragedy befalls a member of chambers, the barristers scramble to keep one of their own out of jail, but Jack may have gone too far.
* "Episode 6"
Annie and Charlie are on opposite sides of the court for a dog-bite case. When representing a neighborhood watch member who killed a burglar, Jack and Laura find their simple case of self-defense complicated by police interference and a special prosecutor who wants to make it all about race.
The cliffhanger ending of Season One implied nothing was ever going to be the same in the New Street defense chambers, but at the start of Season Two, it's business as usual. Joe's back at his desk, Jack's up for bail, and Charlie and Annie are starting what will be a season long game of "will they or won't they?." In fact, the season's six episodes are full of annoying romantic subplots and personal drama, always to the detriment of the court cases. We get hints of interesting legal drama -- a man with a face like a KISS pincushion charged with fraud, a drunk driver with a breathalyzer result four times over the legal limit and a statement "that reads like a Tom Clancy" -- but they're just excuses to get lawyers together for some sexual tension and never take us past the courtroom doors.
Rather than growing with their increased screen time, the lawyers seem to be stuck in a rut. Because the previous season didn't give the characters much in the way of personal lives, there's little they can do except retread the same ground over and over. Jack the rebellious lawyer becomes such a self-righteous rule-breaker that he's nearly insufferable, so the only member of chambers opposing him, ambitious new kid Joe, has been made arrogant and sulky to make his boss look better. When we finally get to meet Charlie's wife and Al's partner, it's as more fuel for the melodramatic fire. While previous character revelations hinged on the buildup of hints over the season, silly twists are dropped into the mix to make for extra drama, culminating in an abrupt and out-of-place cliffhanger finale that won't ever be resolved thanks to the series' cancellation.
Though they are annoying, the side trips make you appreciate the legal aspects even more. There are fewer court cases this time around, but a wider exploration of English law spices up the proceedings. The writers also aren't afraid to let unpleasant litigants be innocent or to portray the guilty in a sympathetic light, resulting in much more realistic outcomes than its American counterparts. New Street Law also differs from American shows in its realistic blend of talent; rather than wall-to-wall "young, attractive, and white," it includes a wide mix of races and sexualities working at all levels of the judicial system and on both sides of the law. Annie's paraplegic husband takes a backseat this season, but openly gay Chamber's clerk Al gets a wider role and a major plotline for Chris Gascoyne to flex his acting muscles, and his sexuality is a non issue.
Because of the dialogue-driven nature of the program, the 2.0 stereo is only noticeable during the credits sequence, and the widescreen is nice but nothing special. There are no extras on this set, despite claims on the Koch Web site of outtakes and bloopers. Both my discs froze several times, but never skipped ahead.
New Street Law: The Complete Second Season has more of a junk food feel than the first. The episodes are every bit as consumable, they just don't satisfy as much. The move to a more character-oriented format is disappointing, but the series is six hours of entertainment that flies by.
The show is guilty of messing with a winning formula, but based on prior good
behavior, it's free to go. See you later, litigators.
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 366 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1