It is the 1750s. The Industrial revolution has contributed to the growth of the city of london. It has become a pleasure - and vice!
The novelist Henry Fielding [Ian MacDiarmuid - Star Wars ] is appointed Magistrate of Westminster. He and his blind brother John [Iain Glen - Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ] create a police department, the Bow Street Runners. They begin their first case - the investigation of the murder of a prostitute.
This is a wonderfully atmospheric vision of the Georgian Underworld, dominated by a cast of powerful actors.
The second case is the murder of a Church Minister. It turns out that he was a homosexual in a time when it was illegal. The Fielding Brothers must delve into the hidden lives of the suspects, and unfortunately this cuts close to home.
It's amazing to see a realistic portrayal of the time, with no attempt to deny the fact that once upon a time, politically incorrect attitudes ruled society. Contrast, for example, with the excreable Robin Hood (2006) ...
The Fielding Brothers investigate a gang of housebreakers.
The Magistrates' patron threatens to withdraw Parliament's support for them. The alternative is a combination of bounties for thief-takers to catch the crooks, and payment of extortion for the return of stolen property. This seems not entirely different from the modern concept of Performance-related pay, although unlike certain cheesy shows this phrase is never uttered!
The villains of the week are an Irish gang, led by a thug who calls himself Tom Jones (after the title character of Henry Fielding's most famous book)!
Tom Jones is broken out of Newgate by his gang. Worse, they take Henry Fielding hostage. Luckily for Fielding, his brother doesn't respect laws and human rights as much as he claims to. We get to see a blind, middle-aged lawyer giving a suspect the Jack Bauer treatment!
Meanwhile, Jones and his thugs are comparatively civilised towards their hostage. They threaten to kill him, but the most harm they really do to him is to make him question his beliefs. Jones points out the unfairness of the system,
To conclude the first Season, we are shown how the Fielding brothers first managed to set up the Bow Street Runners. Their patron, Lord Newcastle, takes them to his favourite brothel run by Juliet Aubrey . Unfortunately, Henry Fielding is soon informed that the establishment may secretly contain underage girls ...
Meanwhile, his brother John investigates the Mooney Gang, a bunch of local thugs. We get to see how far the Fieldings will go in order to establish their Police Force.