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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
TV too good to be remembered
William Gallagher
William Gallagher looks at the TV making news this week
By the BBC's William Gallagher

Do these people have no concept of how difficult they make it to describe new programmes?

It looks as if the trend in this autumn's season is to produce shows that are too good to be ignored and yet resist recommendation because they are just too familiar.


What is right with Murphy's Law is that star James Nesbitt - Adam in Cold Feet - is really very good.

Murphy's Law (Monday 24 September , 2030 BST BBC One) is this week's most obvious example, although the much-hyped The Saturday Show (0900 BST BBC One, you'll never guess what day) risks doing it too.

What is right with Murphy's Law is that star James Nesbitt - Adam in Cold Feet - is really very good.

Rogue

He is playing another charming, slightly roguish Irishman and best of all there is just no point in the story when you would confuse him with Adam at all.

Somehow he has kept the fun of his performance in Cold Feet and added the little undertow of soured tragedy that his new role calls for.

James Nesbitt
Murphy's Law star James Nesbitt backs a teacher award
But tragedy is one of those key words that makes you suspect you are in for a story about a policeman with a dark secret, that he must brood through for a good hour of the plot.

And you would be right to be suspicious as that is almost what you get here.

Thomas Murphy (Nesbitt) is indeed a policeman, is absolutely troubled by a dark tragedy and he does indeed brood.

But he does not get over it in a group hug at the end and for once the story of what has happened to him is only let out in little gulps throughout the plot.

When it becomes clear, too, you will agree that it is tragic and again this is a very good feature of the drama.

It is almost as good as the dialogue which genuinely contains surprises and nice touches.

Colin Bateman
Colin Bateman wrote Murphy's Law specifically for James Nesbitt
For instance: "Any last requests?" asks a gunman about to shoot Murphy, who replies "Miss".

So far, so very good and if you are thinking of a thousand other shows that it is like, the odds are that you have not thought of Farscape (Monday 24 September, 1845 BST BBC Two).

Skilled

The thing with Farscape is that it is extremely skilled at taking science fiction clichés and turning them on their heads to make new and clever drama.

But if it is better than ordinary SF, it is also tied closely to the limits of that genre and spinning the clichés is not the same as escaping them entirely.

Similarly, every frame of Murphy's Law is quite familiar and that stops it being the kind of programme that you will be voting for in some Channel 4 Top 100 Best Detective Shows poll in years to come.

What it should not, do, though, is stop you watching this one - and it is unlikely to stop the makers bringing Thomas Murphy back for future stories.

If there are future adventures, it would be a courtesy if writer Colin Bateman - who wrote this with Nesbitt in mind - could just make it very bad or very good, not this 70 per cent excellent that he's pulled off here.

See also:

17 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Award for 'Cold Feet' star
25 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
NI screenplay opens Dublin film festival
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