Judge Kristin Munson was dismayed to learn that in America, when you tell people you're a barrister, they expect you to serve them coffee.
Charlie: You look tired.
The New Street chambers powder up their horsehair wigs for a second (and final) season of courtroom drama.
Facts of the Case
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"
• "Episode 2"
• "Episode 3"
• "Episode 4"
• "Episode 5"
• "Episode 6"
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.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
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