Is It Legal? comes to DVD

Friday, 10 September 2010 23:00

This 1990s sitcom was created and written by Simon Nye of Men Behaving Badly, Hardware and Reggie Perrin fame.  It starred Richard Lumsden (Life of Riley), Imelda Staunton (Cranford) and Jeremy Clyde (Jam and Jerusalem). Its format chronicles the misadventures of a team of deeply flawed characters staffing the offices of a small suburban law firm. Is It Legal? Was originally aired between 1995 and 1998 over three seasons, and won the British Comedy Award for Best Sitcom in 1996.

We begin with newly qualified solicitor Colin Lotus entering the profession, fired with idealism and a genuine desire to help people. He hardly gets off to an auspicious start, with a tragedy involving his first client at Hounslow solicitors Lotus Spackman & Phelps. As a junior partner at the firm, his legal career takes a decidedly shambolic turn from this point on. He is surrounded by a team that show the highpoint of ineptitude – with the likes of dozy office boy Darren, skill-free secretary Alison, permanently infatuated married clerk Bob, and golf-obsessed, sherry-soaked senior partner Dick, he actually fits in better than he really should!

Is It Legal? makes it to DVD

The characters are in effect gross caricatures, but will no doubt have alarm bells of recognition going off with many of us. The nature of a good stereotype is that they are a considerable amount of people who fit such specifications, and that’s very evident here.

It’s a series that manages to create situations with its core cast and very few guest stars in each episode. The most notable guest star in this first season is John Thomson – who appears as an ambulance man in the first episode. A word of warning that the first two stories are quite stilted, but by the third one the team are well into their stride, and the humour feels less forced.  

Most of the cast have gone on to memorable other performances. Imelda Staunton (Stella) is now Dolores Umbridge in the “Harry Potter” franchise. Kate Isitt who played Alison went on to play Sally in Stephen Moffat’s Coupling (which was also directed by Martin Dennis and Executive Produced by Beryl Vertue).

Patrick Barlow (Bob) was seen regularly with French and Saunders, and was the Vicar in Clatterford. Richard Lumsden (Colin) played Nathan in Sugar Rush, and is currently Roger Weaver in Life of Riley. Jeremy Clyde famously played Jonathan Aitken in The Alan Clark Diaries, and was the Chief Super in the first season of Ashes to Ashes.  Matthew Ashforde went on to play another character called Darren in the BBC 2003 series Grass, while Nicole Arumugan went on to play Kali Hamanda in 70 episodes of Doctors.

The first two seasons aired on ITV in 1995 and 1996, with a final season (minus Dick) appearing on Channel 4 in 1988. ITV3 has recently aired the first two seasons, but the third season remains unrepeated due to its different broadcast sponsor.

Is It Legal? is out now from Network as a single disc release of all seven episodes, with a running time of 175 mins approx, a ‘12’ certificate, and a RRP of £12.99 – or get it for less at


IS IT LEGAL? – Season One Episode Guide

Imelda Staunton as Stella Phelps

Richard Lumsden as Colin Lotus

Patrick Barlow as Bob Birch

Kate Isitt as Alison

Jeremy Clyde as Dick Spackman

Matthew Ashforde as Darren

Nicole Arumugan as Sarah Chivers (Miss Bappy)


Written by Simon Nye

Produced by Beryl Vertue

Directed by Martin Dennis

Music composed by Debbie Wiseman

Titles by Jackie Bridger

A Carlton Production for ITV.


01. Death In Hounslow

It’s Colin’s first day as a junior partner, and although he is on a mission to help people, the fate of his first client comes as something of a blow.

Guest Starring: Charles Simon (Mr Dobson), John Thomson (Ambulance Man), Cate Fowler (Woman with Dog), Rupert Bates (Man with Dog)

Original ITV Transmission: 12 September 1995


02. Whodunnit?

Stella tries to find out who’s been misusing the photocopier.  Bob is too preoccupied to help, and Dick’s suddenly got a golfing obsession.

Guest Starring: Darren Tunstall (Policeman), Billie Reynolds (Jacinta).

Original ITV Transmission: 19 September 1995


03. Dick’s House of Horror

Dick has bought a new house, and has entrusted the conveyancing to his colleagues. Unfortunately, an unreliable surveyor has failed to reveal a major problem.

Guest Starring: Michael Troughton (Mr Arnold), Alan Talbot (Houseowner).

Original ITV Transmission: 26 September 1995


04. Colin Heals The World

Colin faces a moral crisis when he takes on an incredibly attractive client, who turns out to be an entirely different type of solicitor herself.

Guest Starring: Charlotte Weston (Jane), Iain Mitchell (Giles Brindley-Sherman), Mark Lewis (Detective Inspector).

Original ITV Transmission: 3 October 1995


05. Infatuation

Handsome young lawyer Peter, straight out of law school, becomes an instant hit in the office, with Stella and Alison competing for his attentions.

Guest Starring: Raymond Coulthard (Peter).

Original ITV Transmission: 10 October 1995


06. Bob Breaks In

Darren has fallen in love with Alison, Colin becomes the office counsellor, while Bob has been thrown out by his wife but must retrieve a valuable case file from home.

Guest Starring: Patricia Garwood (Belinda Foulkes). (No Sarah this Episode).

Original ITV Transmission: 17 October 1995


07. Resignation

Stella has been offered a job with a rival firm.  Horrified at this prospect, Dick resorts to a little blackmail. Meanwhile Bob discovers Sarah is going away, perhaps forever.

Guest Starring: None this episode.

Original ITV Transmission: 24 October 1995

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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