"You're quite the stereotypical Irishman, aren't you?" challenges possible love-interest-of-the-week Annie in the pilot episode of Murphy's Law, a BBC police procedural.
"A stereotypical Irishman? 'Scuse me! What does that mean?" responds Thomas Murphy.
"Well, you sing at the drop of a hat, you think your twinkly eyes and your gift of the gab can charm the knickers off of anything that moves, " she declares.
"Yeah, it's great, isn't it!" says Murphy. And it is great. James Nesbitt's Tommy Murphy amuses beyond the stereotype.
Murphy's Law is generally understood to be "what can go wrong, will go wrong." In the hands of undercover detective Thomas Murphy what can go wrong probably won't, and even if it did, the bad guys wouldn't notice anyway. On a believability scale, Murphy's Law is closer to the farfetched boundary. On an entertainment spectrum, as seen in season one, now on DVD, it is first-rate.
Tommy Murphy, displaced Northern Irishman in London, too easily infiltrates the mob. It only takes hours for him to be embraced by the underworld when he goes undercover. Sometimes he even uses his real name. He stares and stalks to such an extent that he makes the viewer nervous. It is unclear why he wouldn't make drug dealers nervous too. Even when receiving a standing ovation for a rendition of John Denver's "Annie's Song" while undercover as a lounge act, James Nesbitt makes the character of Tommy Murphy so appealing and compelling that everything works in the story beyond the dubious situations.
The series was created by fellow Northern Irishman Colin Bateman specifically with James Nesbitt in mind. Nesbitt is an actor who can do both comedy (Waking Ned Devine) and drama. Nesbitt had early Oscar buzz for his role in Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday, but that drama was disqualified from Academy Award contention because it aired on British and Irish television prior.
Murphy's Law was originally conceived to take place in Northern Ireland, but Bateman realized that a TV series set in Belfast "was not going to make it on prime TV so we decided to compromise (with a setting in London)." It may have been a compromise, but Murphy's Law was also a success, winning an Irish Television and Film Best Actor award for Nesbitt in its first season.
The cast in season one also includes Del Synnott as fellow detective Alan Carter and Claudia Harrison as their boss and obligatory embodiment of sexual tension. There are excellent guest star appearances during this first season, including Ray Stevenson (Rome), and David Bradley who is now forever known as Harry Potter's acrimonious Argus Filch.