25 Days of Crime-mas Day 9: Law and Order UK is a killer spinoff

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Freema Agyeman attends Build at Build Studio on September 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Freema Agyeman attends Build at Build Studio on September 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images) /

Law and Order UK may have been a Law and Order spinoff but it often bested the original series. That’s why it’s our pick for Crime-mas Day 9.

Law and Order UK is the best Law and Order spinoff most TV crime drama fans have never heard of. Thanks to some BBC America scheduling snafus, the show’s time on U.S. airwaves was up and down at best—leaving a great show largely under the radar.

But 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.K. incarnation of the show, and honestly, it’s better than any other spinoff. In fact, sometimes it was better than its own predecessor.

Luckily, Sundance TV has rescued it for streaming in the United States, giving American fans one more chance to catch on (and even see some episodes that BBC America never aired!)

Here’s why you should add this series to your watchlist:

More than just a spinoff

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When Law and Order UK originally arrived, many American viewers brushed it off as a copycat of the U.S. version, especially with scripts being adapted from the originals. It was a huge misconception.

While the show did base its episodes off installments of its predecessor, each one was carefully reworked to reflect British law and the different characters.

As such, many episodes ended up going in wholly new directions than their American counterparts, and the performances were of course entirely fresh given that the ensemble was completely different. Many episodes managed to even outdo the originals, between the new twists on the writing and the outstanding acting.

The Law and Order UK cast

This may be one of the finest original casts ever assembled for a TV crime drama. When you look at the Law and Order UK ensemble in hindsight, it reads like a murderer’s row of TV stars.

Originally, the police were played by Bradley Walsh (Doctor Who) and Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica, Strike Back, NCIS). The prosecutors were Ben Daniels (The Crown, The Exorcist) and Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, New Amsterdam). Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson played the original supervisors for each side.

Like its parent series, the show went through several cast changes. Most notably, Daniels left after the fourth season, then Bamber after the fifth and Agyeman following the sixth. Walsh would be the only regular to make it through all eight seasons.

Related Story. How Law & Order: UK changed the franchise. light

What is Law and Order UK about?

If you’ve seen the original Law and Order, then you know the general premise of this series. One half is spent with the police investigating a crime, while the second half focuses on the attorneys taking that case to criminal trial. Most cases, but not all, are neatly wrapped up in a single hour.

Of course, this being the British version, the law and procedure are different—and so is the slang, but BBC America did once produce a hilarious video educating audiences on some key terms.

Why should you watch?

The cast of Law and Order UK, particularly the original ensemble, is amazing. There’s a reason that several of them were established names before this show, and why they’ve all gone on to equally or even bigger things since. They’re top-tier actors throughout, particularly Bradley Walsh, who’s the heart and soul of the series.

But Jamie Bamber, Ben Daniels and Freema Agyeman are all incredible as well, and the chemistry within that group is readily apparent on screen. They energize the show, and the writers come up with creative ways to make stories stand out.

Episodes to watch

“Samaritan” (Series 2, Episode 1) is a powerful script by Chris Chibnall, who’d later go on to write the critically acclaimed TV crime drama Broadchurch and is now the showrunner of Doctor Who. Most Whovians don’t know he was the showrunner of Law and Order UK during its first season and wrote six episodes.

“Confession” (Series 3, Episode 4) is the show’s take on “Bad Faith,” one of the most well-known Law & Order episodes. However, a tremendous script from Terry Cafolla, coupled with wonderful work from Jamie Bamber, makes the original pale in comparison.

“Deal” (Series 5, Episode 6) is Jamie Bamber’s final episode, in which he gives an astonishing last performance. Writer Emilia Di Girolamo crafts him a legitimately stunning exit, and the story then carries over into “Survivor’s Guilt” (Season 6, Episode 1), which is one of Bradley Walsh’s best outings. Plus, a young John Boyega—now internationally famous for Star Wars—plays a key role.

dark. Next. See the full 25 Days of Crime-mas schedule

What do you think of Law and Order UK? Which TV crime dramas are making your list for the 25 Days of Crime-mas? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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