|A Very English Scandal|
Promotional poster for Series 1
|Based on||A Very English Scandal|
by John Preston (Series 1)
|Written by||Russell T Davies (Series 1) |
Sarah Phelps (Series 2)
|Directed by||Stephen Frears (Series 1)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||3|
|Editor||Pia Di Ciaula|
|Running time||56 minutes|
|Production company||Blueprint Pictures|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Picture format||2:1 1080p|
|Original release||20 May 2018 –|
A Very English Scandal is a British television comedy-drama anthology series. The first three-part 2018 miniseries was based on John Preston's 2016 book of the same name. It is a dramatisation of the 1976–1979 Jeremy Thorpe scandal and more than 15 years of events leading up to it.
In 1965, Jeremy Thorpe, a Liberal Member of Parliament, must contend with disgruntled ex-lover Norman Josiffe, whom he met in 1961 and had a relationship with for several years. Thorpe had met Norman when the latter was a 21-year-old stable boy in Oxfordshire and wrote many letters to him, which Norman kept. Norman, who could never quite hold down a job, particularly not after having lost his National Insurance card, was unstable and had a penchant for drama and self-expression, both of which proved increasingly hard to deal with. When Thorpe grew tired of Norman and insisted that he leave the house he had arranged and paid for in London, the young man began to make threats. Thorpe fears exposure and the end of his political career. His fellow Liberal MP, Peter Bessell, keeps Norman silent for the time being with small amounts of money. Norman also requests a new National Insurance card from Thorpe but his request is denied since it would link Thorpe to Norman.
By 1968, Thorpe has been elected as the Leader of the Liberal Party and is the youngest man to lead the party in a century. He marries naive young Caroline Allpass and they have a baby boy. Norman has become more unstable; going by the name Norman Scott, although he gets on well with horses and dogs, he fails to keep a job or relationship, drinks too much and uses drugs. He calls Caroline and tells her about his past romance with her husband. She is stunned by this revelation.
Caroline dies in 1970, after swerving into on-coming traffic; Thorpe mourns her death. Bessell moves to the United States to escape his financial troubles. Norman continues trying to get a new National Insurance card and have his story be heard but with no success. Thorpe considers having him killed but the plans are repeatedly postponed.
In 1973, Thorpe marries Marion Stein, Countess of Harewood and continues to climb the political ladder. Unfortunately, Thorpe encounters Norman by chance, panics and tells David Holmes (an old friend from Oxford) to arrange for Norman's murder. Andrew Newton is hired for £10,000. He tries and fails spectacularly, only killing Norman's dog. Norman immediately reports the crime to the police and is convinced it was ordered by Thorpe.
This results in the 1976–1979 Thorpe affair. Newton is put on trial and convicted of attempting to do harm to Norman. Soon afterwards, Norman requests from the police two letters from Thorpe he had given them in the 1960s. Thorpe decides to forestall Norman by publishing the letters himself with his own version of events and resigns as Leader of the Liberal Party in May 1976. He runs for re-election to Parliament but loses his North Devon seat to Tony Speller of the Conservatives.
Thorpe, Holmes and two other accused co-conspirators are put on trial for conspiring to murder Norman. Thorpe hires George Carman, a combative lawyer, to defend him. In May 1979, the trial begins and the media reports its every detail. Norman testifies, explaining that what he mainly wants is his National Insurance card and to have his story acknowledged. Chief Justice Cantley is flagrantly biased and sides with Thorpe in his instructions to the jury, which finds Thorpe and his co-conspirators not guilty.
The end credits of the miniseries note that Thorpe never held another public office. He and Marion remained married until her death in March 2014 and Thorpe died nine months later. Bessell remained in the United States until his death in 1985. Norman is still alive, owns 11 dogs and still does not have a National Insurance card.
- Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe
- Ben Whishaw as Norman Josiffe/Norman Scott
- Alex Jennings as Peter Bessell
- Patricia Hodge as Ursula Thorpe
- Monica Dolan as Marion Thorpe
- Jonathan Hyde as David Napley
- Eve Myles as Gwen Parry-Jones
- David Bamber as Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran
- Jason Watkins as Emlyn Hooson
- Blake Harrison as Andrew Newton
- Adrian Scarborough as George Carman
- Michele Dotrice as Edna Friendship
- Alice Orr-Ewing as Caroline Allpass
- Michael Culkin as Reggie Maudling
- Susan Wooldridge as Fiona Gore, Countess of Arran
- Anthony O'Donnell as Leo Abse
- Naomi Battrick as Diana Stainton
- Michelle Fox as Lyn
The first series was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, with Hugh Grant starring as Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Scott. The BBC television drama was first announced on 4 May 2017, with Grant already cast as Thorpe. Ben Whishaw was announced to join the cast in August, and the rest of the cast was announced in October. Along with the further casting announcement, Amazon took the US rights for the show. The miniseries comprises three 56-minute episodes.
Filming took place in London, Manchester, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Hertfordshire and South Wales. Although scenes were filmed outside the Houses of Parliament, the inner courts, interior hallways and staircase were represented by Manchester Town Hall, which is built in the same Gothic Revival style as the Palace of Westminster. The offices of Thorpe and other MPs were created at Bulstrode Park, a vacant country house in Buckinghamshire. The grounds of Bulstrode were also used for the night time assassination attempt scene set on Exmoor.
The town of Hertford was used as a stand-in for 1970s Barnstaple, while Saunton Sands in North Devon stood in for the California beach where Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings) lives in a seaside shack. Bridgend in South Wales stood in for Dublin, while Norman's period living in Wales was filmed in and around Monknash. The show was able to film in the lobby and exterior of the Old Bailey in London, where the show's climactic scenes take place. A Very English Scandal was the first production ever to be granted permission to film in Court One of the Old Bailey but they had to decline because of tight time restrictions and filmed the court scenes at a courthouse in Kingston upon Thames.
The first series received very positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 97% based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 9.05/10. Rotten Tomatoes's critical consensus reads, "Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw impress in A Very English Scandal, an equally absorbing and appalling look at British politics and society". Metacritic gives the miniseries a weighted average rating of 84 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". In 2019, the series was ranked 76th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century.
The real Norman Scott spoke out about the show's characterisation of him and its portrayal of his life. He told the Irish News that "Artistic license is fine but this isn't my story. And there's nothing funny about someone trying to kill you...I'm portrayed as this poor, mincing, little gay person ... I also come across as a weakling and I've never been a weakling".
Awards and nominations
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- "The makers and stars of A Very English Scandal discuss why comedy is so important to the story". Radio Times. 27 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- "The Riveting Tragicomedy of 'A Very English Scandal'". Film School Rejects. 23 July 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- TV, What' s on (20 May 2018). "Ben Whishaw on playing Norman Scott: 'A Very English Scandal rips along like a bizarre comedy!'". What' s on TV. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- Gilbert, Sophie (3 July 2018). "'A Very English Scandal' Revisits an Affair That's Stranger Than Fiction". The Atlantic. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- Mangan, Lucy (20 May 2018). "A Very English Scandal review: funny and confident – like Jeremy Thorpe". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
- Mitchell, Robert (22 May 2017). "Hugh Grant Returns to British TV for First Time in Nearly 25 Years". Variety.
- "A Very English Scandal". BBC Media Centre. BBC. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (21 May 2017). "Hugh Grant To Star In Stephen Frears' 'A Very English Scandal' For BBC One". Deadline.com.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (25 August 2017). "Ben Whishaw Joins Hugh Grant In BBC's 'A Very English Scandal' – Edinburgh". Deadline. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
- Mitchell, Robert (2 October 2017). "Amazon Boards BBC Drama 'A Very English Scandal'". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
- Eleanor Bley Griffiths (3 June 2018). "Where is A Very English Scandal filmed?". Radio Times. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
- Lowry, Brian (29 June 2018). "Hugh Grant delivers in Amazon's brilliant 'A Very English Scandal'". CNN.
- "A Very English Scandal - DVD Release News". 27 June 2018.
- "A Very English Scandal: Miniseries (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "A Very English Scandal". Metacritic.
- "The 100 best TV shows of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
- "Norman Scott criticises 'weakling' portrayal in BBC's A Very English Scandal". The Irish News. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.