April’s TV season at BFI Southbank celebrates the work of producer Verity Lambert, concentrating on some of the more forgotten and neglected titles from her remarkable career at the forefront of British television drama.
The season includes a fine selection of drama, romance and comedy, writes programmer Marcus Prince, in honour of a prolific TV producer.
Verity Lambert rose from the position of secretary at Granada Television’s press office to become one of the most important movers-and-shakers in British media. She produced or exec-produced dozens of programmes that burrowed their way into the nation’s psyche, all benefitting from her instinctive grasp of what would be popular with the public. It would take a year-long season to cover all of her works, and many of the most famous (The Naked Civil Servant, Minder, Doctor Who, Widows, Jonathan Creek, Riley – Ace of Spies, Saigon, Year of the Cat) are still (or have recently been) screened on TV, so we’ve decided to concentrate on some rarer, but equally fascinating, titles. With thanks to Richard Marson, author of the forthcoming biography Drama and Delight: The Life of Verity Lambert, for his curatorial help.
- Apr 3, 2015 3:40 PM, NFT3
W Somerset Maugham: Olive
BBC 1969. Dir James Cellan Jone. With Eileen Atkins, Edward Fox. 60min
Anthology series were a mainstay of 60s and 70s television – such as the BBC series based on Maugham’s writing. This award-winning segment centres on a murder at a plantation.
+ Between the Wars: Now She Lies There
ITV 1973. Dir Warris Hussein. With Sarah Badel, Stuart Wilson. 50min
Part of an anthology of stories written between the two World Wars. This entry reunited Lambert with her Doctor Who director Warris Hussein in a story of a high-flying socialite.
- Apr 11, 2015 1:00 PM, NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Table Manners
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 109min
A special screening of Alan Ayckbourn’s tour-de-force trilogy of plays exploring the events of a single weekend from three different points of view. The first part sees Norman (Conti) organise a disastrous family gathering as he tries to seduce his sister-in-law, Annie (Penelope Wilton).
- Apr 11, 2015 3:50 PM, NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 107min
Norman gets hilariously and destructively drunk leaving chaos in his wake. He continues his ill-placed seductions and now turns his attentions to his brother-in-law’s wife, Sarah (Keith)
- Apr 11, 2015 6:20 PM, NFT2
The Norman Conquests: Living Together
ITV 1977. Dir Herbert Wise. With Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti. 94min
The final part of Ayckbourn’s trilogy introduces a fascinating array of twists, turns and revelations about the events and the characters both as individuals and in relation to each other.
- Apr 14, 2015 8:40 PM, NFT2
ITV 1973. Dir Alan Clarke. With Martin Shaw, Charlotte Howard, Alan Barry. 56min
Brian Clark’s meditation on the (then) current life of a high-flying professional footballer is well served by Alan Clarke’s no-nonsense direction and Shaw’s studied performance as a star whose career is threatened by injury.
+ TV Playhouse: No Mama No
ITV 1979. Dir Roland Joffe. With Victoria Fairbrother, Tim Pigott-Smith, Thomas Snook. 63min
This powerful dramatization of Verity Bargate’s best-selling novel concerns a mother who yearns for a daughter, but struggles with having a second son and a failing marriage.
- Apr 18, 2015 6:30 PM, NFT2
Sunday Night Theatre: Blinkers
ITV 1973. Dir James Ferman. With John Neville, Barbara Ferris, Stuart Henry. 50min
A delightful generation-gap comedy-drama about a relationship between a lovelorn older man and a free-spirited feminist hairdresser. Watch out for an amusing cameo from Disc Jockey Stuart Henry as a flamboyant hairdresser.
+ Class Act
ITV 1994. Dir Jane Howell. With Joanna Lumley. 50min
The first episode of an absorbing and hugely enjoyable comedy drama. The aristocratic Kate (Lumley) falls on hard times after the disappearance of her criminally dubious husband, and has to keep one step ahead of the law to survive.
- Apr 20, 2015 6:10 PM, NFT3
C4 1993. Dir Diarmuid Lawrence. With Tim Guinee, Danny Webb, Lennie James. Part 1: 108min + Part 2: 107min (plus interval)
Comics is Lynda La Plante’s pacy story of Johnny Lazar, an American stand-up comic who comes to London in an attempt to revive his career after his drink and drugs dependency have made him unpopular on US television. Just as he’s on the verge of success in Britain he witnesses a gangland killing in Soho, and becomes caught up in a murder investigation.
The Sailor’s Return
ITV 1978. Dir Jack Gold. With Tom Bell, Shope Shodeinde. 112min
Early in the reign of Queen Victoria, sailor-adventurer William Targett falls in love with an African princess, marries her and brings her home to rural England. But the villagers are not happy with the situation, and the couple’s idyll soon turns into a nightmare. Beautifully filmed in the West Country, this haunting, poignant film tells the story of a love doomed by insularity and racial prejudice.
Booking details for the season can be found here.