TV preview: Law & Order: UK

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Be honest - who thought, when hearing back in 2009 that ITV were making a spin-off of the hit US crime drama Law & Order, with Corrie’s Danny Baldwin in the lead, that it would be a success?

We’re willing to hold our hands up right now and say we predicted a flop of epic proportions - after all, what does the host of The Chase know about dramatic acting?

Quite a lot, we soon realised - the first series proved surprisingly compelling, and since then each successive run has built on the last. Now, as its eighth season commences, it’s one of the best-rated British police procedurals out there. And we’ve never been so happy to be proved wrong.

This latest run of Dick Wolf’s Blighty-based saga grabs the viewer from the get-go, with a good old cops-and-robbers car chase involving an Astra pinched from Kentish Town (okay, it’s not quite on a par with Fast & Furious 6, but at least it grabs the attention).

However, thanks to a shock development, the car being pursued comes to a sudden stop - as does the twentysomething driver’s life.

A discovery in his boot proves even more shocking: the body of a man in his 60s, who may have already been dead when he was put there. There is no ID on the deceased - no wallet or phone; nothing in the pockets and other macabre elements which should make identification tricky - no teeth or hands.

It all couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as a new arrival, DS Joe Hawkins, looks to have been thrown in the deep end. He’s fresh from his transfer from child protection to the murder squad, and on his first day he’s already trying to discover who the deceased was and how he died.

Green as he may be, though, Hawkins soon realises that a positive result here could make his transition into his new unit all the easier, and sure enough it’s not long before he proves his worth and forges a successful new partnership with Brooks.

Ben Bailey Smith, who plays Hawkins, was an inspired choice for the role - he shares much in common with Walsh, as both come from the live comedy circuit. Whether or not he can match the popularity of Walsh’s world-weary Brooks, though, remains to be seen. Guest stars this season include Helen Baxendale, Hattie Morahan, Joseph Millson, the late Roger Lloyd Pack, Colin Salmon, Roy Hudd, Christopher Fulford, Haydn Gwynne and Harriet Walter.

LAW & ORDER: UK, ITV, Wednesday 9pm