Created and written by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes), ITV1’s Eternal Law is set in the beautiful city of York and focuses on the two central characters, Zak and Tom, who are lawyers with a twist – they are angels placed on earth to do good.
Episode 1 airs at 9pm on Thursday 5th January on ITV1.
Here Matthew Graham introduces the series…
“If I may, I’d like to tell you a story. This was how it was told to me by my mother.
“When I was 2 years old we were both in the garden. Our house was a semi in Rickmansworth, the gardens in the street running cheek by jowl. Mum was weeding. She heard a voice. It was calm and clear and urgent but in no way panicky or alarming. In hindsight she realised that she couldn’t tell if it was male or female.
““Quickly. Look behind you.”
“She turned to see little Matty tottering forward, the garden shears open towards his face. Losing his balance and about to fall! She reached out and prevented me severely injuring or possibly killing myself. And then naturally she looked to the gardens on either side of us so she could thank the neighbour who had warned her.
“The gardens were empty.
“Was that her guardian angel who had whispered urgently in her ear that afternoon? Was it mine? Was it merely the sixth sense that a mother may have for her child?
We’ll let the theologians, philosophers and Richard Dawkins thrash that one out for now. From the perspective of a writer, it raises wonderful possibilities and one can not help wondering “what kind of character would such a guardian be?”
“Many, many years later (2008) Ashley Pharoah and myself were discussing A Matter of Live and Death. A terrific film full to the brim with wonder, romance, imagination and shot through with a sly and cheeky humour. (“There were some who would think it Heaven to be a clerk”).
“Imaginations suitably ignited, we decamped to the pub – the only sane place to hatch ideas. We both drank water…that had been thoroughly fermented with hops into beer.
“We agreed that a serious, portentous take on guardian angels would draw unfavourable comparisons to Wim Wenders’ masterpiece Wings of Desire. We wanted something that tried to emulate the wit and cheek of the Powell and Pressburger picture. That showed us angels not as luminous, pious beings, disconnected from Human life but as fallible strangers in a strange land.
“Baffled by this troubled world yet embracing its treats – the food, the drink, the crackling hearth. Struggling with big decisions and challenged by unwanted emotions. In other words, we wanted them to be more like Us.
“We wanted it to be a buddy show too. Most good TV dramas are ostensibly buddy shows. So we created the grumpier, more cynical veteran (Zak Gist) and the wide-eyed ingénue (Tom Greening) Archetypes to be sure but now archangeltypes…See what I did there?
“We took the idea of Heaven as a place of benign rules and laws and based our angelic world on it. So “God” became “Mr Mountjoy” and our angels became lawyers, moving alongside people during a harrowing moral crossroads in their lives. Advising, comforting but also prepared to get though – to admonish and even judge.
“And we wanted a love story. Girl meets angel sort of thing. A love story that is forbidden and comes at an apocalyptic price. All lovers need an obstacle and what bigger obstacle than the end of the world?
“And we wanted an advisor to the advisors – someone to act as a one-person support unit here in enemy occupied territory. A housekeeper to slap their wrists and stroke their brows.
“And we wanted a villain. Because we love villains. A dark angel with lips that drip honey.
“And so a cast of characters was born and we realised that we could let them loose in a recognisable TV drama format – that of the law show. This would hopefully help the audience find purchase with a new concept. But Eternal Law can not operate as a regular legal drama. Nor did we want it to. The law stories serve as a mechanism to deliver the characters and put them into conflict. We needed to dispense with policemen and drawn out courtroom scenes. This had to be an angel show, not a law show.
“US TV series Boston Legal proved helpful in this respect. Ash and I loved the way writer David Kelley cut to the chase. Client walks in with a problem and bang we’re in court a scene later. He knew where the meat of the action was going to lie.
“Realistic? Nope, not remotely. Exciting? Yes, very much so. And for those who know it, Boston Legal ends each week with the two main characters sitting on a balcony – cigars and brandies in hand. And yes we borrowed that wonderful epilogue. Yes we did. Guilty as charged m’lud.
“Except that being angels, Zak and Tom find themselves perched on the top of the York Minster tower, feet dangling fearlessly over the edge as they marvel and fret at a world in terrible danger yet still sparkling with love and joy.
“Eternal Law is pure fancy. It wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s hopefully a steaming mug of cocoa on a dark winter’s night. But it’s also a love letter from us to a screwed up messy world full of wonderful things and troubled, maddening, flawed and wonderful people.
“As Zak Gist points out, who couldn’t love a world with cheese and biscuits?“
Are you looking forward to Eternal Law? Let us know below…