I sometimes feel that Channel 5 ought to add another icon to the channel ident which sits permanently in the top right hand corner of the screen (as if the picture quality isn't enough of an alert that you have hit the wrong button on the remote control). In the left hand corner they could insert a small counter that would display the per-hour budget for the programme that is then being broadcast. This way you would have some idea of just how large an allowance to make for what you see. Take Wing and a Prayer for example (the title presumably something of an in-joke about flying on empty tanks). As drama series go this is a long way from being the worst thing ever broadcast - indeed ITV is currently running some programmes which make it look positively ambitious by comparison, and which have a considerably larger budget to play with. On the other hand, Wing and a Prayer isn't actually very good either - but then there are limits to the transmuting miracles talent can perform.
The result is an odd hybrid - something between a resuscitation of Crown Court, that old afternoon warhorse on which so many writers and directors found their feet, and the glossier drama of LA Law, in which the private lives of lawyers intersect with their professional duties (the intersection being located in the corridors of the local courtroom). Last night's episode was the first I've seen but obviously there was a humdinger of a party quite recently because no less than four of the chambers occupants found themselves engaged in "shouldn't we talk about what happened the other night" conversations. Catching up late meant that it also came as something of a surprise to find out - towards the end of the episode - that the drama isn't set in London but in an unspecified Northern town. With only one exterior shot in an hour's screen time you are reliant on someone mentioning the fact now and then, though the revelation does explain the oddly incestuous feel to the action, with colleagues from the same chambers opposing each other in court and the judge and defence counsel retiring after a case to discuss a weekend break together.
There is something similarly airless about the drama's way with its storylines, which proceed just a little too neatly along the established lines of legal drama, in which rhetorical fireworks will generally triumph over the facts - the head of chambers, in particular, is a monstrous ham in court, much given to arching of the eyebrows and cynical sotto voce asides to his second. Every now and then, though, you sense a breeze: last night's episode contained a chilling little scene in which a not very bright defendant was asked why she had molested her niece. "You read so much about messing around with kiddies in papers," she replied with torpid indifference. "I thought, well, there must be something in it." This had an authentic whiff of the sheer stupefaction of many criminal cases - as did the fact that she got away with it for lack of evidence. "Sod it - you did well," said the solicitor when the brief expressed mild anxiety about the result. "She'll probably ask for you next time."
Equinox's account of an American doctor's battle to change standard procedures for the treatment of severe head trauma (C4), was built around a single child's progress from comatose patient to smiling mobility - an effective narrative hook for what was essentially an account of procedural politics. As science it was distinctly anecdotal - because this little boy got better you were inclined to accept that everyone else would too. But I couldn't exclude the niggling question of whether Dr Jam Ghajar had seen the recent Horizon (I think) in which an equally passionate and persuasive case was made for rapid cooling of the body in cases of head injury. Before I saw this film I knew exactly what I had to shriek at the doctors if ever I accompanied an unconscious relative to casualty - now I'm in two minds again.Reuse content