Two further comparisons, and I’m ready to reach a verdict.
One thing that is evident is that the pace of the UK episodes is verging on the slothful. In Unsafe, while Stone is trying to persuade the judge to deny the appeal, the camera cuts rapidly throughout, with reactions conveyed in a couple of seconds. When Steel conducts the counterpart argument, the camera lingers on a long shot at the end of the argument to underline the strength of his emotion. And in Buried there was even an establishing shot (of the Thames). The folks behind the BBC’s Bleak House understood the Law & Order style far better than Kudos does.
In the UK version, both cops and lawyers are irritatingly unimpeachable. The empathsise, constantly. Steel sends flowers annually to the victim of a man he failed to prosecute. Brooks loses sleep over a mothers’ distress at the lack of resolution to a case. The UK cops take time to denounce a former cop’s bigotted attitude. But in the US versions, the protagonists are allowed their own prejudices; though rarely without being challenged within the script. Debate is a regular feature, especially in the DA’s office, and the cops’ black humour helps them deal with the daily trauma. The lawyers daily balance the life changing decisions they make for victims and defendants with their chances of success. Cynical, perhaps; but their compassion is still evident.
The performances in the US version are exceptionally strong. While in the UK version, when facing down his “nemesis”, Daniels has to throw a box down in the street to show his anger, Moriarty gives such a contained performance he can convey ten times the emotion by barely appearing to lose control at all. The UK version is blessed with great actors, but the performances are mediocre to poor.
It isn’t working. Let’s hope it’s not renewed.
But for ITV whether it continues will depend on whether the changes they have made appeal to the audience that they are seeking. They clearly have a strong vision of the audience they are appealing to: they think they are morons. In comparison to the US version, the UK scripts are dumbed down melodrama and the performances lack all of the strength and subtlety of the original. Wherever the US version requires the viewers attention, the UK version makes especially sure to spell everything out SLOWLY. Oh yes, and Brits?Acting is NOT the same as overacting.
Series Verdict: The court finds that the original Law & Order is being copied without merit. Why watch the new versions when the episodes made 15 years earlier are so much better?