Because the epic quality of the 17-disc complete series DVD set of the thoroughly awesome British legal drama Kavanagh Q.C. deserves equally epic coverage, Unreal TV will run three reviews of the 27 roughly 90-minute episodes in this forum. Additionally, there is an excellent chance that this year's "Black Friday" list of the best DVD sets of 2013 will feature this release.
This first review provides background information on "Kavanagh," the exceptional quality of the DVD set that is comparable to only two sets in a collection of 1,000s of sets that have been amassed over seven years, and the first seven episodes in the DVD set. The second review will discuss episodes from the middle portion of the set, and the third and final review will round out the series with a discussion of "Kavanagh's" final episode.
The incredible quality of every aspect of the 1995-2001 six-series (my people call them seasons) "Kavanagh" itself proves once again that British television programs kick the arse of their equivalents on this side of the pond. Chief Inspector Morse, who has his own awesome complete series DVD set, himself John Thaw plays middle-aged and middle-management London barrister James Kavanagh whose still fairly mild family dramas with the exception of a cancer scare often are more intense than the criminal and civil (or mix thereof) cases that he ably either prosecutes or defends against.
In reading Thaw's IMDb profile for these reviews, it was sad to learn that he passed away a year after finishing "Kavanagh." The one bright spot was that his last major project was such a success.
Rather than featuring quirky and/or super-model appearing characters, B and C List guest stars, or "ripped from the headlines" plots, "Kavanagh" simply told interesting tales of legal disputes and the overall ordinary stories of the legal professionals who represented the clients around whom those conflicts centered.
Kavanagh's roughly 20-year marriage to wife Lizzie was generally happy and mostly free of the intense drama (at least in the first seven episodes in the DVD set) that characterizes many such unions on American shows. Some straying occurred, a clash of careers developed, and arguments about their teen kids flared, but the couple took a good long-term view of their relationship. It typically seemed that they had been together a million years and bet that they would be together for a million more.
Kavanagh's colleagues indulged in mild (and instantly regretted) sexual harassment, competitive cricket playing, and other vanities that seem to increase with age. However, this is all mellow and no one takes a swan dive down an elevator shaft (at least in the first seven episodes of the DVD set.)
The most notable aspect of the complete series DVD set is the very sturdy pinewood box with brass hinges and the name of the program engraved in the top that houses the nine sets in the collection. This receptacle looks like a good quality cigar box and is prominently displayed in a spot that even a wooden replica of a cage that houses a complete series DVD set of the Irwin Allen '60s scifi camp classic "Land of the Giants" did not earn.
Further, our good friends at BFS Entertainment cleverly title each DVD set of "Kavanagh" according to the theme of the episodes. Examples include the "Nothing But The Truth Set" and "Diplomatic Baggage" set that are the subject of this review. Although this places some episodes out of order, it facilitates picking a favored theme and does not hinder following the plot.
The "Truth" set does consist of the four episodes from the first series, and the very first offering from 1995 is awesome if only for featuring young Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi himself Ewan McGregor as a uber-hunky and charming labourer who Kavanagh defends against a charge of raping the unhappy housewife at the home where McGregor's character is working.
The facts that the labourer and the housewife had sex was undisputed and that the circumstantial evidence of guilt and innocence could be very reasonably argued in favor of either theory made this story very compelling. Additionally both the uber-awesome McGregor and the actress who played the housewife portrayed their roles very realistically without resorting to melodrama.
It was also nice to see Kavanagh treat this case as just another task and not resort to last-minute drama in the court proceedings. Further, the jury deliberations and the outcome seem reasonable. The twists at the end, regarding which Kavanagh remains awesomely stoic, are the cherry on this genuine treat of an episode. It is difficult to imagine that this episode will not hook anyone on "Kavanagh."
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, has SPOILERS GALORE!!!!!! and is a nice reel of some of McGregor's scenes and the overall great tone of "Kavangh." It truly should not be watched unless you want to see virtually every critical scene in the episode.
The second episode of the series follows the same theme and includes a wonderfully subtle reference to the '60s prime time animated series "Top Cat." In this case (pun intended), an arguably over-zealous member of a neighborhood watch group indisputably runs over a juvenile delinquent whom he was pursuing. The dispute, with the same type of ambiguous circumstantial evidence that is a "Kavanagh" staple, relates to whether the driver intended to hit the pedestrian.
The stakes in the episodes that comprise the "Diplomatic Baggage" set are higher than the group in "Truth." The first one finds the daughter of the newly appointed British ambassador to Austria on trial for killing a visiting Austrian journalist. The interference of British government officials regarding the related quests for the truth and justice add a nice touch of intrigue and conspiracy to this one. It also ends on a note that creates doubt regarding whether justice is served.
The second "Baggage" episode deals with luggage of the familial variety. The murder suspect in this one is the step-son of a "legitimate businessman" with known involvement in underworld activity.
The issues in this episode include the reliability of the testimony of a witness who is not only financially gaining from her testimony but has a perjury conviction regarding an unrelated case and additionally is being pressured to not testify in the current case. The twists at the end of this one truly come out of left field and show how strongly fear can motivate someone.
The final "Baggage" episode has Kavanagh packing his valise to help in a death-row appeal in Sunny Florida. This episode is filmed in that state roughly 15 years before the "Doctor Who" gang travel here to film a widely publicized episode. No, Kavangh does not have a creepy encounter with someone in a vintage NASA spacesuit.
This episode does a nice job exploring racism, despicable political corruption and other problems associated with the American legal system.
The final verdict regarding "Kavanagh" is that it accomplishes the great feats for any television program of entertaining, educating, and prompting intelligent conversation.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kavanagh" is welcome to email me. You can also contact on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.