With all the attention being given to police and military undercover series [NCIS: Los Angeles and Dark blue among them], it’s refreshing to see the British series Murphy’s Law getting a DVD release in North America.
It’s plain from the opening moments of the first series’ [season’s] first ep, Murphy’s Law, that transplanted Irish cop Tommy Murphy [the excellent James Nesbitt, who headlined the recent Jekyll series] is long on charm, impertinence and pain. When his supervisors give Tommy a chance to get his very negative psych evaluation torn up, he is given the assignment of infiltrating a gang of diamond thieves led by the equally wonky [psychiatrically speaking] Terry. In a perfect example of inter-departmental co-operation, Tommy finds himself in the most peculiar of situations.
The first series of Murphy’s Law is comprised of five ninety-minute episodes – each more peculiar than the last – in Electric Bill, he finds himself working for someone he encountered during very different circumstances in the premiere, DI Annie Guthrie [Claudia Harrison] and trying to catch a serial killer by becoming the lead suspect’s cellmate [his cover? Irish terrorist].
Kiss and Tell finds Tommy infiltrating a posh club for cheating spouses to catch another serial killer. We become aware that his prime talent is his charm – his spindly form in swim trucks suggests his strengths lie in other areas.
Then there’s the return of a legendary snooker champ for one last go in Manic Munday. The plot revolves around the snooker championship as a young turk vs. shall we say a more mature [?] player. Before this one is over, there are kidnappings [one sort of committed by Tommy], blackmail and a betting scam that seems to smart for the alleged suspect.
Finally, Reunion finds London on the brink of a gang war, but when Annie discovers a connection between the murders of rival gang members, she joins Tommy undercover – with unexpected results.
What makes Murphy’s Law different from other undercover cop shows is that it has the kind of dark, gritty feel that most Hollywood versions can only pretend to. The event that causes Tommy to fail his psych e evaluation turns out to be a kind of Sophie’s choice, involving two groups of people. He thinks he made the wrong choice – something that colors his actions in a later ep.
Created by Colin Bateman – who wrote three of the first series’ five eps, Murphy’s Law is the kind of program that lives in a surprisingly real world. When someone is shot in the shoulder, they fall down and become useless [it doesn’t matter where one gets shot; it HURTS!]. When co-workers are placed in close proximity, stuff happens [and I’m not necessarily talking Tommy and Annie here…]. The pacing of the series is a bit less frenetic than North American audiences might be used to, but clever dialogue and well constructed stories make up for that.
Plus, being a British series, the good guys don’t always get their man/woman – though, sometimes in a roundabout way, there is usually some measure of justice meted out.
The set’s only feature is a pretty comprehensive bio of James Nesbitt.
Grade: Murphy’s Law, Series 1 – A
Grade: Features – D