Bed-hopping, booze and barristers – how This Life made law sexy
“Well if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a long bath and a short dress to get into.”
The classic line, spoken in a sultry Scottish brogue, pretty much sums up the spirit of hedonistic 90s drama-cum-soap This Life. Well, it does when added to the cocktail of booze, drugs and cigarettes that helped fuel the firey relationships at the heart of the two series, shown on BBC2 in 1996-1997.
This Life was a ratings hit, perhaps because the characters successfully appealed to a bunch of identity-stricken Generation X’ers. The copious amounts of sex might also have helped.
But This Life struck TV gold when it achieved the unthinkable: it made law cool.
Through series one and two, the five chief characters – Anna, Egg, Warren, Milly and Miles – share a house that acts as the main stage for the junior barristers and solicitors to play out various levels of deceit and intrigue.
Take a lot of bed-hopping, some destructive inter-house-mate infatuation, a sexuality crisis, a dash of Machiavellian workplace rivalry, and an affair with the law firm boss – and you’ve got an idea of how delicious an episode of This Life could be.
Series two culminates in what must be one of the best ever TV weddings. The workplace rivalry boils over, the affair spills out, there’s a legendary punch in the face… it’s little short of glorious.
But what about the law, I hear you cry? Well, there is some law in there. In the background. Sometimes you see the characters at work, doing a bit of legal-type stuff and carrying pink-ribboned manila folders.
But that’s not the point. You didn’t tune into This Life to get Rumpole of the Bailey. Nor did that stop This Life becoming a great beacon of light for the legal profession.
Why? Because the junior barristers and lawyers of This Life genuinely are sexy. They drink, they smoke, they take drugs. They’re wild and they have parties and they stay up late and have lots of sex. They excel in witty one liners like “only the old can afford to be young” and “despite all its shortcomings, I’m still partial to penis.”
You could see yourself as one of them. Just a wee law degree, and you could be there.
This Life did away with law’s crusty wigs and dusty tomes. It made the legal profession seem accessible for a mindless pleasure-seeking me-generation seeking short-term thrills. We came away loving both the programme and the idea of law.
Where’s the proof, you might say? Well, just look at UK law schools. They’ve been oversubscribed for years and it’s all the fault of This Life. CP