Defending The Guilty, BBC Two

Barristers in robes rushing from court to court holding piles of papers and takeaway coffees normally signifies crime and drama in TV-land. Think Maxine Peake in Silk or (minus the horsehair wig: that’s a British thing) Audrey Fleurot in Spiral.

There’s crime aplenty in this new six-parter by Kieron Quirke and Alex McBride, on whose memoir it’s based, but the primary mission here is to amuse and poke fun. It’s hard to say definitively that there has never been a British sitcom about junior barristers climbing the greasy pole under the eye of their cynical and self-serving elders. But if there has, it was in the dim and distant. Defending The Guilty is certainly the only such item in this year’s autumn schedules.

Will Sharpe played aspiring barrister Will, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and attached to old hand Caroline (Katherine Parkinson) who was supposed to being showing him the ropes. Mostly she showed him disdain, though when he mentioned wanting to become a barrister because of his belief in justice she showed him an embarrassed face and shooshed him.

In his office Will had three fellow novices – posh and entitled Liam (Hugh Coles), socially awkward Pia (Hanako Footman) and Danielle (the excellent Gwyneth Keyworth), who was Welsh and working class – but only one of them can be given a job at the end of the probationary process. So the show is about getting on in a career at the expense of your peers, about being young, about living in London. In other words it’s a lot like This Life, but for the age of flat whites, status updates and an over-inflated property market.

It was funny. Sort of. Parkinson had the best lines, mostly the ones in which she insisted on referring to herself as “Mummy” (as in “Mummy needs her power” when she sent Will back to the office to pick up the laptop cable she had left behind, or “Mummy wants to call herself Mummy” when he complained about her calling herself Mummy). But other lines sounded too contrived, even in Mummy’s mouth. “I am going to shaft Ashley so hard it’ll need a soundtrack by Isaac Hayes,” she said at one point. Well, it probably looked good on paper. Elsewhere the writers milked more jokes than was probably wise from the similarity in sound between “jizz” and CHIS, the acronym for Covert Human Intelligence Source (or grass, in plain English).

If it wasn’t too cheesy I’d say the jury’s out on Defending The Guilty.