I remember seeing this series on public television in 1968, while I was still attending high school in New York City. After the phenomenal international success of the first "Forsyte Saga" (with Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, Kenneth More, Susan Hampshire, Martin Jarvis, Nicholas Pennell, and Michael York), the producers of "Masterpiece Theater" looked about for another quality novel to turn into a series. Eventually they would find many, but they stumbled here.
Why they chose this novel of Aldous Huxley's instead of the one he is remembered for, his anti-Utopean novel "Brave New World" is a mystery to me. If any producer seeks out a work of a known novelist for filming or staging it should be a popular choice. This is why there are so many versions of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", but no film versions of "The Chimes", "The Battle of Life", or "Dombey and Son". The public knows what is memorable and lovable. Occasionally an experiment can be conducted with a less than well known title. In all the Jules Verne novels turned to movies stands "The Sothern Star" and "Facing The Flag", neither of which most people recall in their original printed form. But the former is considered an entertaining, if minor film, and the latter is best known (in it's Czech film version) for the interesting production technique used.
"Brave New World" was a scary view of a future of vacuous minded ninnies who live for pleasure, and don't think (thinking is done for them by the rulers). It is almost as good a negative view of the future as Orwell's "1984". But Aldous Huxley wrote at least twenty novels, and "Brave New World" is the one we all remember. "Chrome Yellow", "Ape and Essence", "After Many a Summer Dies the Swan", and "Eyeless in Gaza" are not recognizable titles anymore. For many years Bantam paperbacks did reprint them, but most of these are now out of print - the public lost interest in them, but not in "Brave New World".
"Point Counterpoint" was apparently chosen from this list of losers because it was set in the 1920s, the era of the "gay young things" that Evelyn Waugh (a far better and more deserving novelist than Huxley) spoofed unerringly in novel after novel. As a novel of the 1920s and 1930s, with characters based on famous or infamous people of that period, it seemed a natural to follow "Forsyte".
You see, when the "Forsyte" saga appeared on television, it actually dramatized all of the main stories of John Galsworthy's family of wealth in the first two series of trilogies ("The Forsyte Saga" and "A Modern Comedy"). There was actually a third trilogy that Galsworthy wrote that followed "A Modern Comedy", which James Michener (in an article in T.V. Guide when the "Saga" was on television) said were terrible. For instance, in the second trilogy, Fleur Forsyte finds a new admirer in her husband Michael's friend Wilfred Desert. Wilfred vanished from the series - seemingly without reason. In the final three novels he reappears. The third trilogy is entitled "End Of The Chapter". There were also a separate volume of tales of the "Forsyte" family called "On Forsyte 'Change".
So having brought that international audience into the wonderful long weekend of the 1920s, public television, "Masterpiece Theater", and British television followed with another series set in the 1920s, but chose Huxley rather than Waugh. Big mistake. For all Waugh's crankiness about Jews and Americans, and whatever else he disliked, he was a great novelist. Huxley is a mediocre one.
"Point Counterpoint" is the story of a writer named Philip Quarles, who decides to write a novel based on all the people he knows. He figures that their struggles and problems actually are the reverse image of each other's for comparison sake (hence the title, "Point Counterpoint"). The figures are based on well known people of the period. For example, Max Adrian played John Bidlake, a well known artist and social creature (and gourmet), who is - apparently - based in part on Augustus John. His problem is his health is in decline, and his gourmet days are over - he has to eat simpler foods now to survive. This reduces his social charm considerably. But he is surviving at the end of the story. Meanwhile, Quarles and his wife are having marital problems, and these disappear only when their only child - a boy -developes a serious illness. Suddenly the hitherto ignored child gets all the attention that Bidlake has sacrificed.
Edward Judd - last seen as the backer of Mr. Cavour's experiments in anti - gravity "cavourite" in "First Men In The Moon" - is Sir Everard Webley, a right wing political figure leading a paramilitary group who hates Jews. Obviously he is based on Sir Oswald Mosley. Webley is killed by another character secretly, and this becomes part of the plot. While not a bad story thread, Huxley did not develop it as well as it could have been (Webley's goons become their own detectives and track down the killer). Frankly P.G.Wodehouse had more fun spoofing his version of Mosley in several novels, as a fascist in the daytime, but secretly the wealthy manufacturer of ladies underwear.
The result is a very uneven series - it was well acted, and produced, of course...but it was lacking any real interest for the audience of the late 1960s. Unlike the characters in "The Forsyte Saga", whom we got to really know in half a year, after six episodes of this series nobody cared about these people. I give it a "7" for it's production values - but it was so dull I tremble thinking that that "7" may be too generous.
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