When Law & Order was first shown on British television it caused an uproar as it showed that the boys in blue were bent. The then head of the BBC was summoned to the Home Office to give an explanation.
Written by GF Newman it broke the mould by not showing the police in a positive light although the ITV series, The Sweeney had already started the trend.
Set in the late 1970s, this is a world of hard nosed detectives, males ones, I think we hardly see a policewoman. It is also a world without the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which would only come into force in the mid 1980s and which the police still complain about. That enshrined in law the rights that suspects have when it comes to police interrogation and access to lawyers.
So to some viewers watching this series first shown in 1978 might seem alien. A suspect wants to see his lawyer and he is constantly denied access.
The four episodes of Law & Order examine the judicial system from the viewpoint of the police, the criminal, the barrister and the prison service.
Derek Martin plays Detective Inspector Fred Pyall in A Detective's Tale. He seems like a conscientious detective but is not averse to fitting up villians and taking backhanders such as sharing the proceeds of reward money from insurance companies.
Pyall wants to get a big time villain called Jack Lynn. Pyall has small time hood Clifford Harding (Alan Ford) bang to rights having found a gun in his kitchen. It seems a little iffy if the police ever got a search warrant. Harding is denied access to his solicitor. How intensely he is questioned and for how long depends on Pyall's mood which might improve if Harding squeals. Pyall wants Lynn and he might even fit him up if that gets the job done.
Producer Tony Garnett who would go on later to produce Between the Lines and director Les Blair show a grim, grey London. A city stripped off its tourist landmarks. It is shot like a docu-drama.
The first episode might seem slow nowadays, it involves a lot of talking but little by way of action. However this is landmark television.
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