Legal shows tend to be either unbearably earnest or wretchedly cynical, but this sitcom embraces the silliness of a serious world – and really steps up to the bar
Defending the Guilty (BBC Two) is a promising new sitcom that mines the potentially less-than-hilarious world of criminal law for its surprisingly plentiful absurdities. Based on the 2011 nonfiction book of the same name by the barrister Alex McBride, it has an insider’s fondness for what it mocks. Will Sharpe stars as Will Packham, a pupil barrister fighting three other trainees for tenancy. It is a highly competitive, badly paid, scrappy existence. “I’m only three months in, there are four of us and chambers are only going to give us one place,” he explains. Unfortunately, he says this to a gangster facing a murder charge, who gives such a withering look that you suspect he may squash Will with it.
The cut-throat competitiveness of Will’s fellow trainees is treated like a sport, and he is fourth out of four on the “tenancy deathball” whiteboard. Each of the newcomers is listed by cutting nicknames only. He is DJ Stupid because he wears headphones and nods along to the indie soundtrack whenever Belle and Sebastian or Metronomy is turned up loud. Welsh Danielle is Angry Chav and steals most of the best lines, Liam is your obligatory entitled posh boy, Lanky Poison Twat. And then there’s Pia, AKA Hot Robot, and, so far, my money is on her. Will is apologetic about Hot Robot being objectified in such an appalling manner, much to Pia’s airy confusion. “Oh yes, feminism,” she smiles, unconvinced.
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