Case Number 23354


Acorn Media // 2004 // 559 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // February 20th, 2012

The Charge

From the creators of Inspector Morse.

Opening Statement

Funny man Alan Davies dons a white wig in The Brief, a seriocomic courtroom drama and personal misadventures of a barrister fallen on hard times.

Facts of the Case

Criminal law barrister Henry Farmer (Alan Davies, QI) spends his days juggling between the courtroom and his own disintegrating personal life. Running from trial to trial, he performs admirably in the courtroom and miserably outside. With a mounting set of gambling debts, a complicated affair with a politician's wife (Zara Turner, Sliding Doors), a disapproving father and a distant son, Farmer has his work cut out for him -- both in and out of the court.

The Brief: Complete Collection contains two seasons of the show spread across four DVDs, eight episodes in total:

* "The Road To Hell"
* "So Long, Samantha"
* "Children"
* "A Sort of Love"
* "Blame"
* "Lack of Affect"
* "Forever on the Mind"
* "The Architect's Wife"

The Evidence

The Brief is another average British courtroom drama, enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. The Brits set this particular bar very high indeed. Casting Alan Davies as the lead brings a certain twinkle to the production, blending in small amounts of comedic levity, but the show has a hard time separating itself from the pack.

The show plays out as you might expect; a mystery-of-the-week that ultimately ends up in court, duked out by Farmer and his slightly misfit cadre of barrister types. Add in the obligatory set of twists and turns thrown in for good measure, of course. In the court, we get the standard Law and Order point spread: pre-teen murderers, media scandals, gold diggers, rapists, sex triangles, that sort of thing. Time spent outside the courtroom mostly involves the shambles of Farmer's personal life: a rapidly devolving state of financial ruin, gambling debts, relationship conflict, and a son he rarely sees after an acrimonious divorce.

One would never go so far as to label The Brief as a "comedy," but Davies brings a certain charm to the role of Farmer, an all-around nice fellow struggling with a deconstructed personal life. Farmer's flaws are cheerfully earnest. With the tragic shambles of his personal life bordering on the comedic, The Brief offers small moments of levity to balance against the dark and depressing courtroom storylines. We see Farmer sleeping on his office floor, helping his co-workers finagle out of cheating on a game show, triple-booking his courtroom cases, and frantically rushing from court to court, with the judges none the wiser. If like me, you are used to seeing the actor aside Stephen Fry on a quiz panel, expect a small amount of culture shock from this mild role. There are few witty puns and pithy observations from Henry Farmer, and not once does he mention blue whales.

I enjoyed watching The Brief, but I can already tell this will not be a show that will linger in my memory once I toss the discs into the "previously reviewed" DVD pile. Not convinced? Consider this: in five years, no one has even bothered to create a Wikipedia page about The Brief. Ouch. Not even the Internet can remember it.

The Brief: Complete Collection is presented in anamorphic widescreen with stereo sound, English subtitles, and no special features. Colors are natural, detail is average, and black levels are acceptable, with a clean and consistent transfer. Audio gets the job done, with balanced dialogue and modest bass response. Nothing to write home about, but slightly better than average for Acorn.

Closing Statement

An average show lost in a sea of superior crime and mystery dramas, The Brief should be appealing for fans of Davies, if only to see how the funny man holds his own in dramatic courtroom setting.

The Verdict

Light, charming and entirely forgettable.

Review content copyright © 2012 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 86
Audio: 85
Extras: 0
Acting: 80
Story: 82
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile
Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 559 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb