TV review: Silk, BBC One
Silk, BBC One's drama series about barristers, concluded its second series last night. I didn’t care for Silk at first. The idea of having Rupert Penry-Jones’s plummy, privileged Clive and Maxine Peake’s salt-of-the-earth (i.e. northern) Martha competing in chambers while flirting across class boundaries seemed too obvious. For me, the off button clicked when Martha wrote NG (Not Guilty) in bright red lipstick to show she was the Bridget Jones of barristers.
But it has greatly improved – in no small part due to the arrival of Frances Barber’s gimlet-eyed Caroline Warwick QC, a woman described by one of her colleagues as the result of what might happen if “John McEnroe and Joan Crawford had a love child”.
Barber seems to be one of a breed o fifty-something actors who can walk onto any TV drama and steal the show, much like co-star Phil Davis. Davis’s Mickey Joy is a reprehensible, irresistible creation, a man whose life is “made up of dishonest associations”. Mickey is the sort of man who takes the sliced lemon out of a glass of iced water and hands it back to the waitress. He’s also a non-smoker who always has a light, fuelling Martha’s addiction. The scenes between them felt like they were filmed in the seventh circle of Hell. In fact, they probably were as no one seemed bothered by Martha chain-smoking in a public indoor area.
Some of Silk’s scenes were commendably long, and the dialogue often sprightly. “You’re looking too expensive. There’s all the difference in the world between smart and drug-dealer smart,” said one wise barrister to his defendant.
Street-savvy barristers are one thing, but in Silk there is also levity in the law, which reminded me of the true-life case of the pompous judge presiding over the trial of an Irish labourer in the early 1900s.
“Is your client familiar with the maxim res ipsa loquitur?” he asked the defending counsel.
Luckily, the defending counsel was that formidable pursuer of justice Sir Edward Marshall Hall. “My lord,” he replied gravely, “on the remote hillside of County Donegal where my client hails from they talk of little else.”