I realised after I’d written the previous post that my plan had been to tell you about what I’d been watching during August. But I got diverted by the jobsworth. Well: I’ve been watching a lot of things but the series that stand out are, as it happens, to do with crime in one way or another. Apart from ‘A Suitable Boy.‘
I’d been looking forward to this adaptation as I’d read the book two or three times and liked it very much. Vikram Seth’s story of two families in post-independence India is said to tell the story of how his parents got together. Mrs Mehra (‘Ma’ to everyone) is a sort of Indian Mrs Bennett whose business is to get her children married. At the start of the story she has just married her elder daughter and now turns her attention to Lata, her youngest. ‘You too will marry a boy I choose,’ she informs her briskly after the wedding, but Lata has other ideas and falls in love with a boy from the university who turns out to be a Muslim. The twists and turns of love unfold against a backdrop of the first post-independence elections involving sectarian violence which embroils the two families. This is a brilliant adaptation which sticks close to the spirit of the novel. I was deeply impressed: in its way, it’s as good as the classic ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
Whilst that was ongoing I filled in the gaps by revisiting ‘A Very English Scandal,’ the story of Jeremy Thorpe MP and the allegations that he tried to kill his former lover Norman Scott. In those days the merest hint of homosexuality was enough to end a career but fortunately for Thorpe the establishment closed ranks against Scott: the judge’s summing-up was scandalously biassed and was subsequently lampooned by Peter Cook (the sketch is reproduced as the credits roll.) Hugh Grant was an absolute revelation in this: whilst I enjoyed his Charles in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ very much, he didn’t seem to be capable of much more than posh-boy humour. In ‘Sense and Sensibility’ his Edward Ferrars seemed like Charles with a stick up his backside and neither did I rate him in ‘About a Boy.’ But in this he is astonishing; Jeremy Thorpe to the life.
Another actor who’s astonished me of late is Jason Watkins. I enjoyed his shit-stirring Simon in ‘W1A’ and his spoilt son in ‘Hold the Sunset’ but hadn’t rated him as a serious actor. That all changed when I saw him as Harold Wilson in ‘The Crown.’ Wilson is a difficult character to play as he had a very distinctive voice but Watkins does him to the life; a highly realistic portrayal with no hint of caricature. These same strengths emerge in ‘The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies’, the true story of a retired teacher outed by the press as a suspect in a murder case, whose character is publicly assassinated by the gutter press for no reason other than that he is a loner and highly eccentric. In fact, as his lawyer showed, he was an exemplary citizen who had never received so much as a parking fine. He was let off, but not before his reputation had been destroyed. He successfully sued for damages and later gave evidence to the Levison enquiry on abuses in the press, something he has in common with Hugh Grant.
We got onto the Christopher Jefferies series via ‘The Jury’ on ITV because they are written by the same person. I hadn’t heard of Peter Morgan but he’s written some very successful dramas including ‘Frost/Nixon’ and ‘The Queen’. But in ‘The Jury’ he focuses on underdogs who are accused of crimes with little evidence because there is prejudice against them; in the first series a Sikh boy and in the second a man who’s committed crimes before and totally looks the part. What’s unusual about the series is that the back-stories of the individual jurors feature alongside the trial itself and influence the outcome.