Life

TV review: Drama about high-flying divorce lawyers has potential to be a big hit

The new six-part BBC series, The Split, began on Tuesday night. Picture by David King/ BBC

The Split, BBC One, Tuesday, 9pm

A family of high-flying divorce lawyers, each member with their own mystery and secret, is the focus of a new gritty BBC drama from Emmy and Bafta award-winning Abi Morgan.

Welcome the Defoes, a hard-hitting family of legal eagles who dominate the divorce circuit in London.

The six-part series begins a few weeks after eldest daughter Hannah, played by Nicola Walker, has split from the family-run firm, where matriarch Ruth is one of the city's leading divorce lawyers.

The episode focuses on Hannah's first day at the new rival firm, Noble & Hale, which probably doesn't go as smoothly as she would have expected.

She's given a multi-millionaire client to handle, a businessman who only informs his wife he wants a divorce when they are seated beside each other in Hannah's office.

It's clear from the start that Hannah, classed as a divorce lawyer extraordinaire, tries to take a more human approach to the process of a couple splitting from one another.

She appears to prefer her clients to reach a more civilised agreement about their lives - from their children to their luxury pads - the opposite approach to her new firm which tries to accumulate huge fees by centring the battle in the courtroom.

It's not long before Hannah comes face-to-face with her own family firm though.

She battles her younger sister Nina, another divorce solicitor, across the boardroom table in a bitter separation involving a stand-up comedian who is being denied access to his son because of his new show, 'My Ex-Wife's a Bitch'. Understandably the ex-wife is a bit vexed.

Family means nothing though when business in involved and Nina shows just how cut-throat the legal profession is when she sees evidence of Hannah's first wealthy client during a break in the boardroom battle.

And it's not long before their mother poaches the multi-millionaire.

As if the day hasn't been bad enough, then there's the unexpected, and clearly not wanted, meeting Hannah has with her father, who just so happens to turn up after three decades.

She eventually arrives at her mother's 70th birthday party, where it's abundantly clear their relationship is under pressure after her departure from the family firm.

There's a nice moment at the party though when Hannah gives a rousing speech paying tribute to the Defoe family's formidable matriarch, who raised three daughters alone while simultaneously forging a successful career in law.

Despite the differences, they appear to have been a strong unit standing together against the world.

Her day finishes with a hint that Hannah may be on the verge of adultery with a former flame. Phew, what a day.

There's a lot of scene-setting and sowing of the seeds in this episode, as you would expect, but at times it makes it feel a bit all over the place. But there's definitely potential on the horizon.

Explaining how she came up with the idea for the series, writer Abi Morgan said it came after meeting a fellow mum - a divorce lawyer - while watching her daughter's school hockey match.

'By the end of the match I realised it was a great world for a show,' she said.

She added that while it centres a great deal on the legal aspects, she wanted it to be more about family and relationships.

Morgan said she tried to keep the drama as authentic as possible, 'mainly because the real truth is way more interesting than anything we could make up'.

Although making us feel sorry for someone earning megabucks and living in a luxury London pad will take a bit more convincing.

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