Last Night's TV: Silk, BBC1; Treme, Sky Atlantic;
Heston’s Mission Impossible,Channel 4

When it's worth staying on the case


Silk, Peter Moffat's enjoyable legal drama, began with its barrister heroine receiving some briefs. One set – a frilly polka-dot pair of knickers – came in a small Jiffy bag and hinted at recent sexual adventure.

The other set – about three-and-a-half feet of messy files – was thumped on to her desk by Billy, the chambers clerk, condemning her to a long night of reading before next day's court sessions. Fortunately, despite those insinuating knickers, Martha Costello didn't appear to have much of a life outside work. She returned home to an empty flat, tossed a ready-meal into the microwave, and settled down to prepare. She also drank a beer straight from the bottle, so that we would know she's a no-nonsense ballsy type who isn't going play by the conventional rules. Which would all have been a bit depressing, frankly, but for the fact that Martha is played by Maxine Peake, an argument in mitigation in itself.

Martha is an idealist. "Innocent until proven guilty. Four words to live by," she tells her new pupil. So naturally she was the barrister who ended up defending a sleazy lowlife accused of battering a pensioner round the head. He was the defendant from hell and his alleged victim was the kind of witness defence lawyers have nightmares about, a decorated Normandy veteran who delivered his testimony with calm military exactitude. Martha's day hadn't started well either, since she was stabbed in the back by a chambers colleague in the previous case. So how would she win the day? By treating a frail, bruised old man as a hostile witness and prising open a sufficient gap in his testimony to finger the police for a fit-up, as it turned out. "These two things are true," she told her uncertain pupil as the lowlife smirked at his acquittal, "Gary Rush is a horrible man and it's right that he gets off."

It seems to be more complicated than that. Martha was right that the evidence was rigged, possibly wrong about his innocence, and the "next week" spoiler suggested that Gary is going to be a continuing presence in the series, adding another narrative strand to the ongoing battle between Martha and her cynical, ex-Harrovian, coke-snorting colleague to see who can take silk first. As Billy geezerishly pointed out, Martha has a handicap in this race: "Two hundred and forty-five women silks ever," he said, "It's still 12 male QCs to every Doris... I mean, what are the odds?" Long, I suppose we're meant to conclude, but given that Martha triumphed against adversity in every encounter here – including humiliation by a lethally cocky solicitor and our assumption that she'd been too soft-hearted about a female drug mule – I have a feeling that she might take it by a neck.

I was a little wary about Treme, David Simon's much ballyhooed follow-up to The Wire. For one thing it seemed unrealistic to hope that lightening would strike twice. For another thing I wasn't sure that I could listen to quite as much jazz as this series was obviously going to require. And the opening minutes of his account of a New Orleans neighbourhood suggested there could be another problem: the sound mix of foreground music and authentically drawled Southern vernacular meant that only about one word in five actually got through. So – though the credit sequence is terrific (a strangely lovely montage of flood-damaged walls) and the setting startlingly at odds with what American television conventionally regards as sexy – I wasn't convinced it would take. Confidence took another battering with the appearance of a British reporter, who demonstrated that however good Simon's ear is for local speech patterns he's completely cloth-eared when it comes to condescending British television journalists (they exist, God knows, but they don't sound anything like this).

I'd reckoned without the quality of the thing, though, and the slow simmer of characters who don't appear heavily outlined as types (good cop, bad cop, idealistic barrister, say) but with the opacity and ragged edges of real life. Is Davis, a local DJ and music enthusiast, a self-indulgent asshole or charmingly feckless? Far too early to say, which is sufficiently intriguing to make you want to stick around for more evidence. And what are we to make of the other relationships, between Antoine the trombonist and his tough LaDonna, and Janette, a local chef, and Davis? It hasn't yet definitively proved that it's love of New Orleans doesn't buy in to the city's self-mythologising, but it has certainly established that Simon's ability to control a complicated urban narrative wasn't a one-off. I even found myself enjoying some of the music by the end, which suggests that it's biggest task, to make adoptive New Orleanians of every viewer, had been pulled off in one case at least.

The point of Heston's Mission Impossible is that Heston proves it wasn't impossible after all, though if this first episode is typical they'll fudge like crazy to make it so. His task was to improve the food in a children's hospital, in the teeth of employee defeatism and tight budgets. Naturally, the end result was presented as a vindication of his suggestions, though the fact that one of his recipes involved injecting fried meal-worms with ketchup by hand suggested that his triumph was very unlikely to be repeated daily and quite impossible to achieve on a budget of £3.34 a head per day. Its dodging of hard facts in the interest of synthetic victory left a distinctly unpleasant taste.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game