Why Kavangh QC is the Legal Drama You Need to See

With John Thaw putting in a stupendous performance, and cases that could have been plucked from today’s headlines, Kavanagh QC will bring out your inner legal eagle.

John Thaw as Kavangh QC


Let's make no bones about it: this series is all about its leading man, John Thaw. It's the Thaw factor that makes the show as riveting today as it ever was - in fact, Kavanagh QC was specifically created with John Thaw in mind to play the formidable barrister. Of course, the man was well and truly embedded in Britain's psyche as a beloved star at the time, with a host of great roles under his belt. And James Kavanagh is number three in what could be seen as a terrific triumvirate of career-defining characters he played.

Number one was the Jack "Shut yer mouth" Regan in the 70s cop series The Sweeney. Playing the snarling, no-nonsense bruiser, dropping lines like "We're the Sweeney, son, and we haven't had any dinner", made Thaw a household name. But, rather than being typecast by such an iconic role, the star effortlessly reinvented himself completely as the melancholic, crossword-puzzling, ale-drinking, opera-loving Inspector Morse. One of the greatest TV detectives of all time, Morse officially inaugurated Thaw as a national treasure.

But if you know him only as Morse or Regan, seeing him as Kavanagh will surprise you. Here's an entirely new flavour of Thaw, in a character who could almost be described as an anti-Morse. Warm, affable and not allergic to smiling, Kavanagh is a working-class lad done good, who - far from being a cynical loner like Morse - is a family man with a healthy social life. Here, in his last major TV role, Thaw shows a whole new side of himself, far more sympathetic than Regan and Morse, and it'll make you fall in love with him all over again.


So just who is James Kavanagh QC? A crusading legal eagle from Bolton, he takes on some of the most hot-button cases around, and - like the considerably posher Judge John Deed - he's not afraid to ruffle the feathers of the establishment while doing so. What makes Kavanagh QC such a revelation to watch today is how relevant it still is. The cases Kavanagh tackles would be setting Twitter alight with their moral ambiguities and inherent controversies. This is stuff that's even more talked about today than it was when the series first aired in the 1990s.

In the very first episode, for example, Kavanagh defends a young student who's accused of raping his boss's wife - an allegation the man vigorously denies. Is he telling the truth? Did his alleged victim invent the tale because she's a lonely fantasist who is estranged from her cheating husband? The he said/she said nature of the case is incredibly thorny, reflecting the conversation raging in our post-#metoo culture.

The series also tackles violent clashes involving the far right, with Kavanagh defending a left-wing protestor accused of stabbing a neo-Nazi at a march. This, again, is a story that could have been inspired by any of the street confrontations that have been on the rise in 21st Century Britain. The show also tackles police violence and corruption, misogynist violence by abusive husbands, and historic sex abuse.


One of the incidental pleasures of Kavanagh QC, aside from all the John Thaw goodness, subtle writing and thrilling courtroom jousts when you'll be egging Kavanagh on as he slices and dices the evidence, is catching glimpses of some very familiar faces. Just as an example, the chap who plays fellow barrister Peter Foxcott will ring some bells with fantasy fans, as yes, he is indeed Cressen from Game of Thrones.

You'll also see the likes of Alison Steadman and Hugh Dancy, the latter coming to prominence in recent acclaimed shows like Hannibal and Homeland. Look out as well for Ray Winstone, Julian Fellowes (yes, the creator of Downton Abbey is on acting duties in Kavanagh QC), Bill Nighy, Andy "Gollum" Serkis, and screen legends Tom Courtney and Sylvia Simms. Oh, and a certain Ewan McGregor also shows up, showing off his A-list aura just before he hit the big time with Trainspotting.