From the opening of Unloved, the UK version of Born Bad from the original’s fourth season it’s clear all the rough edges have been knocked off. There’s a soup kitchen, but there no street workers. Every character is cleaner and more sympathetic. The victim’s biological mother, who is presented as if she wandered into Holloway rehab by accident and never delivers the tirade against social services (“they took him away from me to be safe and look what they did to him”). The perpetrator’s mother, who no longer smokes her way through her new pregnancy. The police officers, who now don’t threaten a witness that they will jail his foster mother to get him to talk. Even Stone’s callous and illogical denunciation of the accused’s mother is delivered by Steel as if to spare the boy.
In adapting Michael S. Chernuchin and Sally Nemeth’s story, Terry Cafolla seems to have a little less faith in his audience. A subtle shot of the victim’s mother in the gallery becomes a melodramatic confrontation with the defence barrister. The latter becomes an old flame of Steel’s (why? what did that add?) Worst, and most unforgivably, we have a tacked-on scene which offers some hope of the boy’s redemption. Even if the UK version had bettered the original in every other respect, that would have damned it.
That’s not to say the UK version was poor, but unlike the previous week’s episode it has comprehensively failed to improve on the story it was adapted from.
Week 2 Verdict: The court finds in favour of the original Law & Order
In the interests of full disclosure, this week I watched the US version before the UK version, last week I did this the other way round. Next week’s episode, Vice, is adapted from season 7’s Working Mum. If I’ve watched that then it was years ago, so the court will be in recess for a fortnight.