Eternal Law, ITV1’s angelic legal drama created by Life on Mars writers Ashley Pharaoh and Matthew Graham, has been suffering in the ratings since it first aired last month, shedding more than one million viewers in the second week alone and a further one million viewers while that episode was airing.
The show has also attracted a chorus of criticisms from the national newspapers – including ‘bonekickingly ludicrous’ from The Independent and ‘far too tricksy, flimsy and saccharine to be wholesome’ from The Telegraph.
As the penultimate episode airs tonight, part of the problem seems to be the vagueness of the angels’ mission. That said, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the show and, while no one is hoping for a drastic change in direction at this advanced stage in the drama, here are five reasons why we think Eternal Law is worth seeing through to the end…
1. The north has always had a fair look-in on British TV with so many shows including Life on Mars set there, but it’s refreshing to see a northern city – or any city – being celebrated on the small screen for its architecture, river and topography instead of just serving as a backdrop for the human drama. The spires, stone and surrounding hills of York give the show a breezy, optimistic feel – while making a fittingly hymn-like setting for a drama about the battle between angels and devils.
2. The legal stories aren’t as black and white as those of some other British and American law shows – even quality dramas like The Good Wife. The angels’ job is to reveal why people do what they do rather than what they do and to help them redeem themselves rather than to successfully defend or prosecute them, making for an ambiguous and at times surprising resolution to each case.
3. The concept of angels coming to earth to work as lawyers may be reminiscent of Touched by an Angel but if you throw in a charismatic fallen angel for a villain and a godly boss, Mr. Mountjoy, who seems almost to want to wash his hands of earth, you have all the ingredients you need for a fresh and original take on the angels-on-earth theme.
4. There are some great performances from the leads. Tobias Menzies makes a scene-stealing villain, Ukweli Roach is sympathetic as the ingenue Tom, Samuel West is intense and interesting as the lovelorn cynic Zack and Orla Brady is earthy and deep as Mrs. Sheringham.
5. The dialogue is often sharp and insightful with some snappy exchanges between Tom and Zack and between Zack and Mrs. Sheringham. As for villain Richard (Tobias Menzies), he can bring a malicious or comical nuance to almost any line he says.
Are you enjoying Eternal Law? Let us know below…