The Spongers is one of the triumphs and one of the shames of British television - triumphant because it succeeds in presenting the true state of social affairs in jubilee Britain, shameful because none of its frightening lessons have been learned by our society.
Jim Allen brilliantly demolishes the social consensus with his very simple conceit, comparing the British royal family to a poor single parent family in 70's Britain. And it is painful and harrowing to follow the fate of this family at the hands of social services against the background of nationalistic fervour created by the jubilee celebrations.
The ending is probably the most shocking event in television history, but was eclipsed at the time by tabloid uproar over the opening titles of the play, which (super)imposed a picture of the Royals beside the word Spongers. This controversy itself demonstrates Allen's concerns and serves to illuminate his lifetime themes and specifically the themes of this sadly almost forgotten play.
It appears British television no longer has a social remit and, though I hate to admit it, this play is probably partly responsible for that - it's just too powerful, too awkward, all too true. I hope someday it finds its way back into public consciousness.
Required viewing for every human person.
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