Alan Davies is a successful and very visible comedic presence on British television (QI, Bob & Rose), but unless you were lucky enough to catch his mystery series Jonathan Creek when it aired in the U.S., you may have missed out on seeing him. In The Brief: Complete Collection, Davies is as winning as ever, in a more straight-forward legal series. He plays Henry Farmer, a criminal practice barrister who does his best to champion the innocent. As convoluted as some of his cases become, they are no competition for the entanglements of his personal life.
Henry is divorced and is trying to work on repairing his relationship with his young son. He is involved in an affair with a woman, Polly (Zara Turner), who is married to a closeted politician. He has a disapproving father, who also happens to be a judge. He is trying to climb out from under a mountain of debt, most of it incurred while gambling. He’s got a lot on his plate, but Davies’ manner, no matter how hard things get inside and out of the courtroom, keeps the series light in tone.
The Brief is from the creators of the popular Inspector Morse series. We follow Henry from court to home to the office, where he works with the tough-as-nails Cleo (Cherie Lunghi), the eccentric Ray (Christopher Fulford), and faithful assistant and ballroom dancer extraordinaire, Maureen (Linda Bassett).
The series ran only two years. The collection includes eight episodes on four discs for a total running time of approximately 9 ½ hrs. The format is widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 16:9. SDH subtitles and scene selection are available. The Brief is unrated, but some of the cases concern subject matter not appropriate for children. Many faces well-known from other British series, like Kirsty Mitchell (Case Histories, Monarch of the Glen), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey, The Tudors) and Selina Cadell (Doc Martin) appear throughout the series as guest stars.
Series 1 includes four episodes. In “The Road to Hell” Henry tries to get his gambling and alimony debt under control and get his relationship with Polly to move forward while juggling multiple cases. In “So Long, Samantha” a girl’s death overseas looks at first to be the result of wild partying, but Henry is convinced that there may be another explanation. Henry switches to the prosecution in “Children,” an upsetting case involving a 12-year-old girl who may have murdered another child. He meanwhile is not having much success trying to relate to his son, who is spending the week with him during the trial. The final episode of the first series, “A Sort of Love,” involves a twisted love triangle that resulted in murder. Henry and Polly’s relationship also takes an unexpected turn.
Series 2 also includes four episodes. In “Blame” we learn that Henry and Polly are over, his finances are in their worse shape yet, and his father is a witness on one of his cases. “Lack of Affect” concerns a man who has been accused of murdering his mother. Henry’s personal life also starts to get complicated — again. In “Forever on the Mind” Henry defends a nurse who was made the beneficiary of a patient just two days before he died — he must prove she didn’t rush him along.
Davies is one of those actors who is always a welcome presence, whether he is the star of the show, as in The Brief, or just a guest star, as he appeared recently on Inspector Lewis, as the magician and crime solver Jonathan Creek, or even as himself, as permanent panelist on the long-running quiz show QI. Hopefully more of his efforts will make their way to DVD so that American audiences can get to know the talented comedian and actor. The Brief is a fun show with engaging characters. It’s too bad it only lasted for two series, but at least viewers can enjoy these two seasons.