The Weekend's TV: Garrow's Law, Sun, BBC1
Undercover Boss USA, Sun, Channel 4

Legal eagle's still a guilty pleasure

Break out the tricorne hats! Start up the smoke machines! Rally the street traders and the rhubarbing extras! Garrow's Law is back, pitting that paragon of jurisprudence William Garrow against the Georgian powers-that-be, men with spaniels on their heads and a chip of ice in their hearts.

Also back is Lady Sarah, gliding around the place in a hat big enough to go to sea in, and giving Mr Garrow speaking looks every time she bumps into him. For those of you not up to speed with Garrow's Law there's old history between William and Lady Sarah, a poignant might-have-been that adds a considerable amount of emotional grit to his on-going friction with Lady Sarah's husband, Arthur, a loyal servant of the establishment, and a man never happier than when lurking in a backlit corridor somewhere plotting Mr Garrow's downfall.

William Garrow was real incidentally, an early pioneer of the adversarial cross examination. And in Tony Marchant's series many of the cases are real too, even if, as here, they weren't originally conducted by Garrow himself. For the opening of the second series Marchant had selected a chillingly significant one in the action brought by a Liverpool insurance company against the owners of a cargo vessel called the Zong, after a claim had been made for expensive goods jettisoned when the ship was in trouble. The catch was that the cargo was human – 133 slaves who had been thrown overboard because disease and malnutrition had lowered their likely asking price below the insurance payout. The ship's captain pleaded necessity, because water was running low. The insurers were convinced that he'd made a simple economic calculation to protect his employer's profit.

Part of the point here was that nobody in court was interested in the moral atrocity at the heart of the case, at least officially. Before he takes on the case Garrow – in this version – is visited by Gustavus Vassa, an emancipated slave (also real, and also involved in the Zong trial) who wants to use the incident to put the institution of slavery itself on trial. Garrow, though, insists on prosecuting it as a mere business fraud, confident that sufficient moral outrage can be smuggled in around the edges to make the larger point. "You will inch towards justice and not demand it?" asks the outraged Vassa. "If we go in its direction, then yes," replies Garrow, whose wily negotiation of the gap between what's desirable and what's achievable is a core part of his heroic caricature. It'll be intriguing to see – if the series continues for long enough – whether Marchant will also let audiences in on the fact that when Garrow entered government he turned out to be a stubborn opponent of proposed reforms of the criminal law and its manic dependence on capital punishment. Inside that noble champion there was a power-that-be just waiting to get out.

Undercover Boss USA – in which chief executives head back to the shop floor in disguise to see what it's like to be a small cog in the machine – comes across like a Tea Partier's version of an agit-prop movie. Or at least this week's episode did, in which Michael Rubin, youthful CEO of a company that supplies online retailing services, cast off his tailored suit for a baseball cap and sneakers, to go and pack boxes in one of the firm's ironically named "fulfilment centers". Michael, who opened his first serious business when he was 15 and now travels to the outlying parts of his kingdom in an executive jet, is something of a poster-boy for the American Dream, proof that if you sacrifice pretty much everything else (such as leisure time and a normal family life) you can make it to the top. So it wasn't exactly startling to find that he was something of a booster for a can-do, free-market credo of hard work and reward.

What was surprising, though, was how upbeat most of his employees were, given that they worked in the kind of places (dispatch warehouses and call centres) that are a byword for wage-slavery and soul-erosion. You'd think that Michael might have stumbled across the odd whiny slacker if his return to the bottom rung was just a shake of the dice. But virtually everyone he encountered – barring one slightly snippy call-centre operator – looked as if they were auditioning for a company recruitment video. This may have had something to do with Michael's cover story (that he was the guinea pig for a documentary about seasonal work). They knew they were being filmed, after all, and were likely to put their best face forward. But they also seemed to be in earnest in their glass-half-full bravado -- maintained even when the glass had far less in it than that. Michael, it has to be said, behaved reasonably well, not complaining when he was sacked for incompetence from the packing line and showing what seemed to be a genuine interest in his employees' lives. The programme ended with a hug, learning and rewards for the faithful: Rashelle got a full-time job, Cameron got a promotion and leadership training and Dave got $10,000 towards his wedding. Danielle, the snippy one, got customer service training and – a final title revealed – "is no longer with the company". Did she jump or was she pushed? And how come they didn't reunite Michael with the foreman who gave him the boot? Let's hope he wasn't bobbing in the wake too.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there