STANDING ON GUARD

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Garrow’s Law: Series 3

Release Year:         2009 – 2011
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; NTSC; Widescreen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         2/4
Running Time:         236 minutes + bonus features
DVD Release Date:         August 7, 2012
Creators:         Tony Marchant
Actors:         Andrew Buchan, Alun Armstrong, Rupert Graves, Lyndsey Marshal
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles; 19 minute featurette; photo gallery; cast filmographies
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

Acorn Media Write-up: 
Pairing sharp scripts and compelling performances with authentic historical detail, the conclusion to the riveting BBC courtroom drama, GARROW’S LAW: SERIES 3, debuts on DVD from Acorn Media. Andrew Buchan (“The Sinking of the Laconia”, “Cranford”) stars as virtuous barrister William Garrow, a man unafraid to confront the injustices of the 18th Century English legal system. Winner of a Royal Television Society award for best history program, the series also stars Alun Armstrong (“Little Dorrit”, “New Tricks”), Rupert Graves (“Sherlock”, “The Forsyte Saga”) and Lyndsey Marshal (“Rome”, “Being Human”, “The Hours”). A favourite of critics and fans alike, GARROW’S LAW first aired on BBC in 2009 – 11, and APT syndicates the series to public television in the US. The DVD 2-disc set includes the last four episodes of the series, a bonus 19-minute featurette, and more.

At the Old Bailey, pioneering barrister William Garrow continues to fight an uphill battle for prisoners’ rights. The French Revolution has made the state more determined than ever to hold on to power, and Garrow’s own circumstances are dire. Now living with Lady Sarah Hill (Lyndsey Marshal), he is impoverished and ostracized by his peers. Separated from her husband, the vengeful MP Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves), Lady Sarah has no rights in the eyes of the law. On top of it all, Garrow’s mentor and Friend, John Southouse (Alun Armstrong), takes ill.

The cases Garrow takes are especially risky. Defending a would-be assassin of King George III, he challenges the legal definition of madness. He also exposes weavers’ horrible working conditions and puts British colonial governance on trial. Meanwhile, a proposition tests Garrow’s professional integrity – but could give Lady Sarah what she desperately desires.

Jon Ted Wynne Review: 
After a temporary drop-off in quality during season two of this historical series chronicling the life and extraordinary career of real-life ground-breaking barrister William Garrow, the last episodes in the series (comprising Series 3) are excellent.  Every detail of the period is evoked and even though the series was modestly produced, it is wholly convincing in its period and setting, (Garrow’s early career from 1783 to 1793) despite a few errors such as having someone play Beethoven’s piece “Fur Elise,” even though the original manuscript is dated 1810 and the piece was not actually published until the mid-19th-Century.

Nit-picking aside, there is much to enjoy in each of the final four episodes of this series.  Individual episode story arcs nicely complement the overall series arc and resolve the main plot points satisfactorily and without feeling “forced.”  Even Rupert Graves, the villain throughout the series, is given his due in a way that is unexpected and fair.  An interesting behind-the-scenes featurette reminds the viewer just how modest the production of the series was, making the achievement of the final product that much more impressive.

Legal dramas have long been a staple diet of television programming. Crafting scripts that interweave compelling points of law and high personal stakes in an 18th-Century setting  really sets GARROW’S LAW apart from other shows.  Having its basis in reality adds to the strength of the series, even though some of the cases that inspired plots were not cases Garrow actually worked on.  They’re still taken from period records and almost all have the ring of authenticity about them.

Andrew Buchan loses some of his hot-headedness as he matures as Garrow, which helps the series feel as if it is evolving and not just repeating itself.  Alun Armstrong as Garrow’s mentor steals centre stage throughout, which is not surprising given his experience as a performer.  His presence gives the show depth and authority.

Series 3 is a must-have for anyone who has enjoyed the show up til now.  It ties up loose ends and continues to grow right up to the last few minutes.  An excellent production featuring an important and little-known champion of human rights.

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