The opening episode introduces the main characters of the collection. James is a gruff, northern barrister, whose once radical outlook introduced him to his aristocratic wife, Lizzie. His rebellious son and love-struck daughter complete the household, whilst the cautious Peter and arrogant Jeremy feature as two of his more prominent colleagues.
Each of the first series episodes resolves around the themes of sex or relationships. Nothing But The Truth involves a rape trial, set against the background of the Kavanaghs' own family troubles. This episode is a textbook example of a legal drama: a clear conflict of evidence; sharp cross-examination uncovering inconsistencies on both sides; a new dimension through a post-trial twist. Ewan McGregor delivers a convincing performance as the accused, but it is Geraldine James's role, as the interrogating prosecutor, which marks out the episode.
Heartland forms a moving tale of the private prosecution of an ex-police officer, set in a crime-run northern town. When a pedestrian is critically injured by a car, his mother refuses to believe that it was just an accident. Jeolousy provides a motive, but can Kavanagh uncover enough evidence to prove the driver's intent?
A Family Affair departs from Kavanagh's criminal workload, as he takes his first family case. Kavanagh represents a father in a custody trial, where both parents resort to unpleasant tactics. Jeremy becomes embroiled in devious tactics too, as he enlists support to be nominated as a Tory candidate.
The Sweetest Thing completes the first series. A prostitute, embittered by years of abuse, is accused of mudering a businessman in a hotel room. The circumstantial evidence against her is compelling, but can Kavanagh cast enough doubt on it to set her free?
Each episode makes compelling viewing. With their cliffhanger plots and superb acting, the first two episodes are probably the strongest, but the series as a whole deserves a five star rating.