Garrow’s Law was an unexpected pleasure when I sat down to watch it, one that exceeded my expectations for both period dramas and lawyer shows. Set in 18th Century England, the series follows the exploits of true life barrister, William Garrow, who was passionate about the law and reforming the legal system. As the first episode so excellently sets up, Garrow convinces his mentor, John Southouse, a solicitor of the Old Bailey courthouse, to let him defend a man accused of highway robbery. Garrow is confident to the point of arrogance and when he loses the case (his client is hanged) he is greatly humbled. Immediately, Garrow learns that in order to change the system that he finds so flawed, he’ll have to work within that system in order to bring about reform.
Andrew Buchan stars as Garrow, giving the character a cocky attitude, but still keeping him likable enough to cheer him on. It helps that Buchan has the wonderful Alun Armstrong as his acting partner. Armstong’s Southouse is a fun character to watch and is quick to bring Garrow down to earth when he gets too full of himself. Rounding out the cast of main characters is Lyndsey Marshall as Lady Sarah Hill. An advocate for change, she becomes Garrow’s ally in taking on cases to defend the innocent and poor. An attraction grows between these two, one that they can never consummate, as Lady Sarah is betrothed to MP Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves). Buchan and Marshall share plenty of pining stares between them. Two other fine actors complete the supporting players: Aidan McArdle as Silvester, Garrow’s chief rival in the courtroom. For plotting convenience, Silvester is always prosecuting Garrow’s clients. It makes for some bitter and humorous situations. The two men also square off in a duel when Silvester accuses Garrow of adultery. Residing over all of the courtroom proceedings is Judge Buller, portrayed by Michael Culkin. He brings the right air of indignity and authority to the role.
Garrow’s Law was created by Tony Marchant. Although it’s set in the 1700’s, the show is far from what you’d expect from a period drama. While the writers adhere to the language of the era and the sets seem to utilize many of the existing architecture of old England, the overall production is completely modern. The camera is fluid and the editing, while not rapid fire, does keep the action moving along. The series originally aired in 2009 on the BBC and it’s just making its DVD debut (thanks to the excellent company, Acorn Video). There were only four episodes produced for the first series (a second series aired last fall and is soon headed to DVD) and they all appear on the two DVD’s in this collection. Besides the episodes, bonus features include a twenty minute behind the scenes featurette, a biography on the real William Garrow and cast filmographies. Overall, a quality series for any fan of courtroom drama and period pieces.