Lawya Art: Scripted Entertainment in the Courtroom

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Broadchurch love. Nice to see great entertainment in the compelling crime/legal mystery drama Broadchurch as it returns to ABC TV tonight. Of course, when you’re in the legal business, you might wince about the court room scenes and how accurate they are in the show or any legal/crime drama series for that matter. I’m Australian and practice here. Broadchurch is English. Some differences but generally the same.

Frankly, it does little good getting hung up on the esoterics of the law as it’s portrayed in scripted legal/crime drama. When you’re watching top-notch acting enhanced by a riveting plot and story line why spoil it?

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Broadchurch is art. Raw drama. It’s entertainment. Dramatic licence, creative licence to make entertaining and compelling scripted police and courtroom drama. Yep. Made up. Imagined. Invented. Written by script writers. Edited. Re-written. Edited again. Lines are studied and learned. The acting is rehearsed.

Likely based on various criminal cases from real life. Composites.

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In real life day-to-day courtroom work, nothing is scripted and rehearsed. The day-to-day activities in the local court houses and court rooms are not pre-written, planned and acted by actors while being directed and filmed. It’s live. Immediate. No second chance. No second takes like in the movies. No “Cut, cut! Start again!”

Seems to me that legal dramas, whether TV series or movies, have been around since TV began and are now available from all over the world. No shortage and great variety.

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Like any scripted for entertainment crime/legal drama, Broadchurch has plausibility issues in and out of the courtroom. But a lawyer is not going to enjoy the show if he/she gets hung up on legal niceties. How distracting. How miserable I would be griping and quibbling about every little inaccurate detail. I love Broadchurch for its strong plot line, its twists and turns and for its tension and suspense.

There would be so much less to watch if I didn’t watch these shows. I think I would have to ban myself from TV if I queried every court room scene! Feet up and enjoy I say!

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Perhaps the big difference with Broadchurch, written by Chris Chibnall, is its long form storytelling:

It’s now called “long-form storytelling”, in which Chibnall tells a complex narrative over eight hours rather than the typical “police procedural” that has a new story every week.

Not only that but he changed the way TV makes these shows.

Rather than give the whole script to the actors he holds each episode back and drip feeds pages to his cast who have to negotiate endless passwords and pseudonyms – including their “Downton Abbey names” – in order to receive their next lines.

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And don’t forget that Broadchurch is backed up by the mesmerisingly ambient theme music for the series by Ólafur Arnalds (from Iceland)

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