The development team for A Very English Scandal had to verify any potentially contentious details they hoped to include in the series scripts by finding several original sources of information to support those details. The key details portrayed in the series - especially those relating directly to the chain of events that caused the titular scandal - are rooted in fact. See more »
I do hope that viewers of this three part BBC dramatisation of the Jeremy Thorpe / Norman Scott affair followed the station's own prompt to immediately afterwards switch channels and watch a documentary made in 1979, ready to be shown on the expected conviction of the former Liberal Party leader Thorpe. However, on his unexpected acquittal, the programme was shelved, until now obviously when it only confirms what most people thought at the time, that Thorpe was as guilty as at least two of his also now deceased party colleagues, Cyril Smith and Clement Freud, about whom as we're al! aware, post death revelations of their heinous personal conduct have also come to light. It's no coincidence that both are name-checked in this programme which perhaps saw the BBC forty years later right its own wrong in not airing, even in an edited form, the original accusatory Panorama expose back then.
The mini series itself made for riveting viewing most of the way through and was certainly helped in its attempts at veracity by casting actors in almost every part with a resemblance to their real life counterparts. The big coup was getting Hugh Grant to play the Thorpe part and he does a good job of capturing the smarmy, superior air of a man of power and with sufficient clout with the Establishment to cover his own dirty tricks and tracks. I was less convinced by Ben Whishaw's portrayal of Norman Scott as a mostly weak, simpering, attention seeking blackmailer when while not without faults, the real life Scott, still alive and seeking justice, just doesn't fit that particular profile (as anyone watching the Panorama show could attest).
Clearly Thorpe thought himself above the law and with friends in high places somehow escaped prosecution. This is never more obvious than when we witness the presiding judge's wholly partial summing up, accurately and wickedly parodied by the brilliant Peter Cook only days later (a clip is thoughtfully included over the end credits). I would take issue with some of the tone of the writing and direction of the piece which seemed at times too light and comical in its depiction of certainly sinister events. I understand that Scott himself is unhappy with how both himself and the actual events are portrayed.
Nevertheless, like I said, it was gripping viewing throughout especially for those of us able to remember the original trial and at least and at last puts the record straight (no pun intended) on an almost certain miscarriage of justice.
As the old saying has it, it's the rich wot get the pleasure and the poor wot get the blame. Or to quote Talking Heads "same as it ever was".
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