Law & Order: UK -- TV Review

Keen attention to detail and solid writing make for an arresting -- if familiar -- import.

Good news for the "Law & Order" fan undergoing withdrawal: Your methadone hit has arrived, in the form of "Law & Order: UK."

A quick update: Last year, franchise creator Dick Wolf exported his decades-old format -- and a few previously used "L&O" scripts -- to England, where a "UK" version of the mothership turned into a critical success. Let the circle be unbroken, as BBC America is starting to air those episodes in the U.S., beginning with Oct. 3's "Care," based nearly beat for beat -- and appropriating some of the dialogues -- on the "L&O" script "Cradle to Grave," which originally aired in 1992.

It's a bloody good translation.

"UK" remakes the script in its own, veddy British image and comes up with a vibrant, layered, insightful look at how the system breaks down no matter what the metropolis.

Here, a greedy landlord goes to any length to get tenants out of a building she wants to renovate; in the process, a baby dies. The acting is skilled, on target and familiar -- from the old/new cop combo in Bradley Walsh and ("Battlestar Galactica" alert) Jamie Bamber, and on the legal side with Ben Daniels (channeling the deep moral conviction of the mothership's Ben Stone character) and ("Doctor Who" alert) Freema Agyeman (sadly underused). Hat tip to Bill Paterson, who as George Castle, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, gets some of the best quips: "I love the smell of bribery in the evening," he says.

It's no literal carbon copy, of course. Here, the sets are brighter, the judges (and head prosecutors) bewigged, the cops translate French (not Spanish) and there's a characteristic British restrained politeness that would have been utterly out of place in the New York-based original. But the lingo flies fast and furious -- note: GBH stands for "grievous bodily harm" -- and the crimes are just as riveting and heinous. Perhaps most shocking is that an 18-year-old script still can pack this much punch, twist around this many corridors and challenge this many legal concepts. It's a testament to the significant power the original series once wielded and why it's still worth watching today.

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