Last Night's Television - Mistresses, BBC1; Law and Order, BBC4

They're still in good nick

The BBC DVD copy of
Law and Order has a Daily Express quote on the back cover: "G F Newman has secured a place in television history with this powerful quartet". I assume the remark is roughly contemporaneous with Law and Order's first broadcast in 1978 – when the series stirred up enough fuss to get senior politicians fulminating – and it's undoubtedly true. Check any decent history of British television and Law and Order is in there. The problem lies in what a patchy, amnesiac affair television history is. A series can earn its place in it, after all, and never be heard of again. So it's genuinely interesting to be able to see Newman's bleak and disenchanted take on British justice in a new context. When it first went out Grange Hill had just started, and the industry standard for television police drama was The Sweeney, to which it offered a genuinely shocking contrast. Nobody scattered cardboard boxes in a slewing Ford Cortina in Law and Order. They were far too busy in a pub lavatory somewhere, taking a back-hander to make sure that evidence conveniently disappeared.

Law and Order merited an immediate repeat at the time but has had to wait 31 years to get it, and by accident of timing it goes out now hard on the heels of Red Riding, Channel 4's adaptation of David Peace's novels about corruption in the West Yorkshire Police. There are some obvious cosmetic differences. There's virtually no swearing in Law and Order, beyond the odd "bastard", and the detectives are mysteriously reluctant to use racial epithets, both of which I take to be evidence of a delicacy that died some time ago. There aren't any self-conscious touches of art in the direction either, because Les Blair opted for an uninflected, semi-documentary style that only amplified the drama's political problems at the time. Most significantly, though, there's this difference: Red Riding addresses a scandal that's well over 30 years old. Law and Order was poking at an open wound, since Operation Countryman, a huge investigation into corruption in the Metropolitan Police, began in the same year that Newman's drama was broadcast.

Its form was unusual. One story seen from four perspectives, the first of which was "A Detective's Tale", in which Derek Martin played Fred Pyle, a corrupt DI with a telling complacency of manner. He was so at ease with the underhand that he barely broke sweat, whether he was taking delivery of a thick wad of notes for his part in covering up a crime or coercing a guilty plea out of a defendant by pointing out to him that a period on bail might be better than waiting on remand for a trial: "You'll be able to do a bit of villainy and provide for your family when you do go away". If Law and Order is showing its age, it is perhaps in the matter-of-factness of its manner, so studiously underplayed that it sometimes feels a little artificial. We've learnt a lot about how to do dead-pan normality in the intervening years, but then quite a lot of what has been learnt stems from dramas like this. And overall it's aged astoundingly well. There was a moment when a publican delivered Parr's scotch to him and asked for 30 pence, and you found yourself suddenly remembering how many years have passed. Most crucially, this was a drama that dared to leave the audience a little in the dark in some scenes, on the assumption that they would scramble to catch up, a model for countless police procedurals that followed it. Compulsory watching for television genealogists, I would say, but pretty good watching even for those who don't give a damn about ancestry and pedigree.

I somehow doubt that we'll be watching Mistresses in 31 years' time, despite the indiscriminate afterlife of the DVD. And since it looks creakily antiquated even now it'll be a strange affair if anyone decides to trip down memory lane. I might as well own up to the fact that I haven't been in a steady relationship with Mistresses since about three episodes into the first series. Last night was just one of those meaningless one-night stands that occur so frequently in the drama itself. It meant nothing, honestly, and I won't be doing it again, a promise I hope to keep because last night's episode was the last of the current series. It ended in a welter of Mills & Boon wish-fulfilment: forgiveness and rapprochement and incipient broodiness were scattered about with scant regard to human psychology (a limiting detail that has never greatly troubled the creators of the series) or viewer's weak stomachs. "It'll be real... real, like my love for you," said Mark to Jessica, insisting that they could live happily ever after on "love and baked beans". I expected Jessica, who has been having trouble with morning sickness, to heave at this, but she took him back.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower