Although Imelda Staunton has said that she was never very comfortable acting in it, this sitcom set in a solicitor's office is, for my money, something of a neglected gem. Written by Simon Nye, more famous for the zeitgeist-catching Men Behaving Badly, Is It Legal? never became a huge success, although it ran for two series on ITV, transferring to Channel 4 for one last push. Please note that this review is really an overview of all three series; there wasn't much change in the quality or consistency of the writing through the three series, although one actor (Jeremy Clyde) left after the second series and when there was a move to Channel 4 for the final series we saw a little more of the characters' lives outside of the work environment.
Even though it never found a large audience there is much to enjoy, especially with leads like Imelda Staunton, Patrick Barlow, Jeremy Clyde, Richard Lumsden and others. Staunton is Stella, one of the only two half-competent workers, held back by her own diffidence; Barlow's divorcee, the other person who keeps the company afloat, has a hopeless yearning for the girl who works in the local sandwich shop, Mr Bappy, and Richard Lumsden plays the son of one of the company's founders whose boyish enthusiasm for legal matters is only matched by his naivety and incompetence. Lumsden is a useful addition as it gives Barlow's character someone to feel superior to. Witnessing Lumsden give way to a bout of uncharacteristic and ineffectual anger, he remarks: "It's like seeing Winnie the Pooh trying to trash a hotel room."
The comedy is often broad - there's a fair amount of business - but I like it a great deal because, as with Men Behaving Badly, you still buy that it's character-led. You could say that the Imelda Staunton character is more three-dimensional than the rest, but you also accept that she is unable to leave the firm: partly (as in one episode) because she's manipulated by the wily Jeremy Clyde (whose contacts made in his club and on the golf course provide the clients) and partly because she is, like the others, terrified, in her way, of the outside - or maybe some part of her knows that she is in a place where she is desperately needed, as the rest would crumble without her. (There is also the hint of a romance with Bob which eventually flowers.) Jeremy Clyde's character may be able to get the clients but he has long ago forgotten how to practise the law with any degree of skill himself, as shown in one episode where he actually has to go into court.
But the main point about this sitcom is that most of the central characters are well-meaning innocents, and the comedy revolves around their characters rather than being imposed on them. Highly recommended.