Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Silk: Season 1
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on September 22, 2013
Seasons one and two of Silk are extraordinary, splendidly written and splendidly acted drama. Yes, Silk is a "legal drama," but somehow that category seems quite inadequate. Although the characters' "home lives" are implied they are virtually never dramatized. On the other hand the rivalries and tensions of their work lives are vivid, believable and fascinating. And although the courtroom battles are perforce conducted verbally, each one turns out to reveal so much more about the various cases assigned to the barristers that it seems fair to call them both mysteries and thrillers. My husband and I watched these side by side, and at times we were convulsed with laughter, at times in tears, and most of the time we were simply riveted. In fact we found Silk too exciting to watch directly before bedtime. But do be very clear about this: these dramas are for the many reviewers here who hunger for highly intelligent television and bemoan the swift cancelation of excellent shows in favor of "reality television" (terrible misnomer) or soap opera schlock. While it is true that we will very soon re-watch both seasons, it is also true that we went back so often to re-watch and clarify or simply to savor scenes that we have very nearly watched it twice already. Excellence like this is the reason we bought an all-region DVD and buy nearly as much from Amazon UK as we do here. And now I'll begin the rather breathless wait for the third season of Silk to run on British television so that they'll release the DVDs.
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Television has been populated by so many legal dramas through the years, it has become increasingly difficult to make the genre seem fresh and exciting. "Silk" is just the latest affair from the BBC. Premiering in 2011, the show is ramping up for the debut of its third season later this year in Britain after having its second season nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Program. Unlike comparable American programming, British television tends to be served up in much smaller doses. Therefore, Season One of "Silk" is defined by only six hour long episodes. The show is based around a group of ambitious barristers (led by Maxine Peake as Martha Costello) who all seek advancement within the legal field. The next step up the career ladder is to appointed to the Queen's Council (QC) and that honor is referred to as "taking silk" due to the gowns worn at that level. As this is a merit based appointment, it is imperative to be noticed as a winner. So "Silk," while episodic in nature, has its protagonists looking toward the future with a particularly competitive edge.

"Silk" is certainly a well made courtroom drama with an appealing cast but, truth be told, I'm not sure it is quite as distinguished or unique as I would have liked. Peake is a solid lead, earnest and steadfast. As a defense barrister, she zealously pursues the truth. Of course, entrenched with strong convictions and the notion that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, you can imagine that this can lead to certain disillusionment when faced with corrupt clients. Her primary foil is played by the reliable Rupert Penry-Jones as Clive Reader. Not quite as principled as Peake, his charm, pragmatism, and bravado have taken him far. As these two are both contending for the silk in very different ways, they tend to butt heads on occasion. The principles are also surrounded by support personnel including Martha's clerk (Neil Stuke), her "baby barrister" (Tom Hughes), and Penry-Jones' counterpart (Natalie Dormer). As only one pupil will be promoted to chambers, there is also a competition between Hughes and Dormer and this adds an element to the primary rivalry between Peake and Penry-Jones. In general, the cast is quite likable. I'd watch Penry-Jones in just about anything and it's interesting to see Dormer in something more contemporary than her memorable turns in "The Tudors" and "Game of Thrones." Sometimes, though, I wished the show would have devoted more time to developing these peripheral characters in more depth.

While I liked the political machinations within the on-going story threads, "Silk" really boils down its cases. This is where the show feels a bit too familiar. Going through the courtroom motions, the cases themselves aren't particularly noteworthy, are solved too easily, or lean to being a bit far-fetched. Initially, none of Peake's clients are too disreputable so she always appears to be fighting on the side of right. As she cross examines witnesses, the show can be fun enough. But as is a weakness in shows of this type, Peake seems a little too adept at breaking witnesses down for startling courtroom confessions. Too many Perry Mason moments! While much of the show goes for grittiness, this recurrent plot device doesn't exactly scream realism. At times, therefore, the dialogue and interactions seem more theatrical than probably intended. In the end, I enjoyed "Silk." Is it the best legal drama on TV? Certainly not. But if you enjoy the genre, I wouldn't hesitate to give this a try either. If nothing else, Peake deserves a shout out for her work. KGHarris, 8/13.
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on September 30, 2013
Why are two crucial scenes omitted? Why is this episode missing the conversation between Billy and Jake, where they discuss Martha's pregnancy? It makes the confrontation between her and her pupil, over her behavior toward the police panel, seem inappropriate. Billy telling Jake about her pregnancy means that all of chambers is made aware of her condition. How can I be charged for an episode that deletes such vital information? Where is the argument with Martha and Billy over her needing "gentle" treatment? This goes directly to the difficulty of life at the bar for women. How can Amazon believe that this acceptable?
33 comments| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Television has been populated by so many legal dramas through the years, it has become increasingly difficult to make the genre seem fresh and exciting. "Silk" is just the latest affair from the BBC. Premiering in 2011, the show is ramping up for the debut of its third season later this year in Britain after having its second season nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Program. Unlike comparable American programming, British television tends to be served up in much smaller doses. Therefore, Season One of "Silk" is defined by only six hour long episodes. The show is based around a group of ambitious barristers (led by Maxine Peake as Martha Costello) who all seek advancement within the legal field. The next step up the career ladder is to appointed to the Queen's Council (QC) and that honor is referred to as "taking silk" due to the gowns worn at that level. As this is a merit based appointment, it is imperative to be noticed as a winner. So "Silk," while episodic in nature, has its protagonists looking toward the future with a particularly competitive edge.

"Silk" is certainly a well made courtroom drama with an appealing cast but, truth be told, I'm not sure it is quite as distinguished or unique as I would have liked. Peake is a solid lead, earnest and steadfast. As a defense barrister, she zealously pursues the truth. Of course, entrenched with strong convictions and the notion that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, you can imagine that this can lead to certain disillusionment when faced with corrupt clients. Her primary foil is played by the reliable Rupert Penry-Jones as Clive Reader. Not quite as principled as Peake, his charm, pragmatism, and bravado have taken him far. As these two are both contending for the silk in very different ways, they tend to butt heads on occasion. The principles are also surrounded by support personnel including Martha's clerk (Neil Stuke), her "baby barrister" (Tom Hughes), and Penry-Jones' counterpart (Natalie Dormer). As only one pupil will be promoted to chambers, there is also a competition between Hughes and Dormer and this adds an element to the primary rivalry between Peake and Penry-Jones. In general, the cast is quite likable. I'd watch Penry-Jones in just about anything and it's interesting to see Dormer in something more contemporary than her memorable turns in "The Tudors" and "Game of Thrones." Sometimes, though, I wished the show would have devoted more time to developing these peripheral characters in more depth.

While I liked the political machinations within the on-going story threads, "Silk" really boils down its cases. This is where the show feels a bit too familiar. Going through the courtroom motions, the cases themselves aren't particularly noteworthy, are solved too easily, or lean to being a bit far-fetched. Initially, none of Peake's clients are too disreputable so she always appears to be fighting on the side of right. As she cross examines witnesses, the show can be fun enough. But as is a weakness in shows of this type, Peake seems a little too adept at breaking witnesses down for startling courtroom confessions. Too many Perry Mason moments! While much of the show goes for grittiness, this recurrent plot device doesn't exactly scream realism. At times, therefore, the dialogue and interactions seem more theatrical than probably intended. In the end, I enjoyed "Silk." Is it the best legal drama on TV? Certainly not. But if you enjoy the genre, I wouldn't hesitate to give this a try either. If nothing else, Peake deserves a shout out for her work. KGHarris, 8/13.
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on October 19, 2013
Maxine Peake, who plays Martha Costello, does an excellent job of portraying a female Barrister who is smart and powerful yet real and caring. Her counterpart, Ruppert Perry-Jones, who plays Clive Reader, also does an excellent job of adding real-life elements to his character despite the stereotypical nature of his role as a cocky, good-looking, female-chasing Barrister. And Neil Stuke, who plays Billy Lamb, the Senior Clerk, always keeps us guessing. I wouldn't play poker with that guy!

The show is fast-paced, with good camera direction, none of this tricking the viewer by focusing on a guy's wristwatch when it was his briefcase beside him that was important to the story. When something does flash rather briefly on the screen it is done in order to build intrigue, and it is always referenced quickly, usually within the next couple of scenes. And if you can't watch a show without incredibly good-looking people in it, this show has two that should feed that need.

The only reason I would not give it 5 stars is because of the lack of characters who uphold traditional values. As the series progressed, I became disappointed with the values of some of the characters. Having said that, these characters are very realistic, people who are both good and bad; no one is entirely immoral or evil. But the part of the show that I liked the best was the insight into the politics and the cases which offered me, the viewer, plenty of plot twists, intrigue, and humor.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 12, 2013
There are plenty of other reviews posted already so I won't rehash lots of the info already provided. I will say that I agree with my fellow Top 100 reviewer, K Harris, that with so many similar courtroom dramas being produced by British (and Australian) television, some stand out above the rest. I'd put Silk - at least this first season (six hour-long episodes) - in the category of "the rest". I was interesting to watch but the cases almost telegraphed their outcomes.

Readers of the reviews should be aware that when this series was shown in the US, it was trimmed to 50 minutes to allow for "funding announcements" and previews of other shows. The DVD (there is, unfortunately, no Bluray release of the show) contains the original 59 minutes per episode BBC series (as des the Amazon streaming version, I am told).

The DVD also contains the now -requisite "Behind The Scenes" featurette as a "bonus". This 13 ½-minute short consists of interviews with each of the main cast members about their character as well as the series producer and the writer, These comments are integrated with scenes from the show. It's unusual because, while you should probably watch this after you have seen the series (it's on Disc 2 of 2), the comments also explain how the British court system works, which can be helpful to know beforehand.

So, in summary, I'm awarding this DVD four stars. Yes, I like it but, as I said, it is not the BBCs most engaging series, in my opinion.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on November 13, 2014
First off, this is a view from the British system, quite parliamentary and filled with wigs and stiff judges. But behind the scenes, the British and American law firms are the same, doling out cases both for the defense and the prosecution, the in-house fighting still juggling for position, and the chess games moving into the courtroom. Which is where this series really takes off. Outstanding writing from Peter Moffat (who seems to have an extensive background in the judicial side of the court system), and even better acting, both good enough to keep this breakaway series fresh and a nice change of pace from the usual CSI-type dramas that flood both sides of the Atlantic. This is what happens AFTER the arrest, the planning of the trial and then the actual trial, as well as how each barrister deals with the pending results, often knowing that while they are right by law, the guilty party just might get off due to a lack of evidence for the jury. This tears at the lead actress, Martha, who values her moral and legal decisions and is torn by knowing the law and yet knowing how some are able to use that to get out of a crime. All in all, this first series (this ran three seasons but only season one is available in the US) is captivating with less soapiness then the covers leads you to believe. Give it a try...Maxine Peake's background (she plays the lead) mimics the role she plays, that of working her way up from a middle class background, part of the reason she was chosen in the auditions. As you'll discover, it was an excellent choice. One of the more overlooked BBC series, this is worth watching!
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on January 29, 2014
Although she's sharp as a tack, the heroine actually makes bad mistakes, is under horrible pressure and sometimes represents despicable people. In the first episode she remarks that, although her client that she got off was a jerk, she was glad that he got off because the law was upheld. In other words the plots are nuanced rather than black vs. white. Beautifully shot, acted, etc.
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If you like British series and legal dramas, this is a delightful combination of the two. The primary characters, though flawed, are endearing. You follow barrister Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) and her colleague -- and sometimes friendly rival -- Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones) as they argue cases in court whilst striving to get their "silk" and Queen's Counsel status. Once barristers attain the rank of Queen's Counsel, they are allowed to wear a long wig and a silk robe. Costello's and Reader's law firm works with a mix of English society. Cases they try include burglary and assault, rape and attempted murder among other offenses. Nothing too grisly is portrayed.

It's fun to note the differences between the British and American systems - in one episode there's a jab at the American court protocol when the judge tells a young attorney to quit moving around so much, that it's not an American court of law.

You observe the wild frumpy wigs, and see where the phrase "bigwig" comes from. In the English system, the lawyers sit and the witnesses stand. It appears the witnesses don't just answer the question, they are allowed to talk for a bit. Interestingly, the same law firm can take the prosecution and defense roles with different attorneys. Makes you wonder which legal system gets better results.

The secondary characters are a delight in this series, too. There's the charismatic and peripatetic Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke) who is Senior Clerk and doles out assignments and $$$. There are two young assistants or interns, Niamh who is a daughter of a judge and played by a blonde Natalie Dormer and Nick, who can barely afford his legal supplies, played by Tom Hughes. Their different circumstances juxtapose nicely. It's refreshing to look at the legal profession through their young and not yet jaded eyes, full of aspirations and ideals.

Found this an entertaining series as I particularly enjoy the strategy in legal dramas. I liked the warmth of the characters in this series. Written by Peter Moffat, the series is inspired by his personal experiences as a barrister. In an interview with The Guardian, Moffat said, "I want to tell it as it really is. The extreme pressure, the hard choices, the ethical dilemmas, the overlap between the personal and the professional, principles fought for and principles sacrificed, the Machiavellian politics, the sex, the drinking, the whole story--life at the bar is the richest possible drama territory."

This series includes some of all of that. Likable characters, entertaining plots, atmospheric British backdrop, and intelligent dialogue mix charmingly. 4.5 stars for me, but I'm an anglophile and enjoy most well-done British series. This series seemed to entertain more than be a deep, dramatic portrayal of the legal world in England. Only critique I have is for the makeup department to tone down Costello's red lipstick a tad.
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on December 24, 2012
This series is, to me, a sequel to North Square, another British legal series. The production is first rate. The actiing superb. The characters are interesting. First class production The stories well written. It is interesting too, learn about the British Legal System and how it differs from our American System.
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