In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.
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1  
1979  
Top Rated TV #151 | Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Director: Tomas Alfredson
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Cast

Series cast summary:
...
 George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)
...
 Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ...
 Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ...
 Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)
...
 Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
...
 Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ...
 Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)
...
 Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ...
 Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ...
 Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)
...
 Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ...
 Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ...
 Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ...
 Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ...
 Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ...
 Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)
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Storyline

George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Alec Guinness is George Smiley in John le Carré's thriller See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

König, Dame, As, Spion  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of three appearances of actor Thorley Walters in a John le Carré filmed adaptation. The first was in an episode of the television mini-series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) [See: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Tarr Tells His Story (1979)], the second was in the theatrical feature film cinema movie The Little Drummer Girl (1984), whilst the third and final appearance was in the tele-movie A Murder of Quality (1991), the latter which was also Walters' final ever film and television appearance. Walters appeared in every kind of John le Carré adaptation: a tele-movie, a TV mini-series, and a theatrical feature film. See more »

Goofs

In episode 6, Bill Hayden writes a cheque for his girlfriend and tears it out of the cheque-book. He then writes her name and address on a slip of paper. In the next shot he is shown ripping a (blank) cheque from the cheque-book and handing it to Smiley along with the slip of paper. See more »

Quotes

George Smiley: Topicality is always suspect.
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Crazy Credits

The opening credits show a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. One doll opens up to reveal a doll more irate than the other one, and the final doll is seen as being faceless. This was inspired by a line at the end of the "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" novel: "Smiley settled on a picture of one of those little Russian dolls that open up to reveal one inside the other, and another inside him. Of all men living, only Karla had seen the last little doll inside..." See more »

Connections

Followed by Smiley's People (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Nunc Dimittis
Composed by Geoffrey Burgon
Sung by Paul Phoenix and the Boys of the St Paul's Cathedral Choir
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User Reviews

Definitely in the BBC pantheon...
17 January 2000 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Definitely in the BBC pantheon (alongside I Claudius and Pride and Prejudice), partly for its formidable cast, but mainly for John Irvin's taut directorial grip - a model of visual economy and uncompromising narrative drive.

A double-agent or 'mole' is suspected at the top levels of the British secret service and retired spymaster Alec Guiness must narrow down the suspects amongst his former colleagues. Arthur Hopcraft's adaptation, while capturing the bureaucratic intrigue and perfidy of John Le Carre's novel, will demand viewers' utmost attention if they want to stay with the unfolding plot.

Irvin shoots Tinker, Tailor as if for widescreen - edge of the screen compositions, careful background detail - and demonstrates how a determined director can overcome the limitations of television(usually seen as a writer or producer's medium). Look at how he composes and cuts the scene where Guillam (Michael Jayston) is interrogated round the boardroom table towards the end of the first half. How Irvin provides deft little 'bookend' shots with the characters slowly walking away from camera.

Not that his sparse, pared-down style doesn't translate to action scenes with equal verve. The prologue - Ian Bannen's abortive mission into Czechoslovakia and its climatic chase through the forest - is as tense as anything you're likely to see on the big screen. Wintry settings and a fraught music score (mainly strings) add to this bleak, cynical vision.

Irvin landed the Hollywood actioner Dogs of War on the strength of Tinker, Tailor, but despite clever touches it didn't launch a notable cinema career. Look out, however, for his earlier television adaptation of Dickens' Hard Times. (For another example of very superior television direction, check out James Goldstone's handling of two first-season Star Trek episodes - 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' and 'What Are Little Made Of').

Author Le Carre may have topped Tinker,Tailor with a dazzling sequel (The Honourable Schoolboy, published 1977), but this is still far and away the best espionage suspenser ever televised. Indeed, it's hard to see how anything else, post Cold War, could quite match this relentless, ruthless dissection of personal and political betrayals.


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