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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Mini-Series > British TV > A Very British Coup (British Mini-series)

A Very British Coup (British Mini-series)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B



After the Iran-Contra affair and the kicking in of the Reagan/Thatcher Era of Neo-Conservatism, the story of politician Harry Perkins (Ray McAnally) becoming Prime Minister of the U.K., but the twist is that he is a self-willed man who also happens to be a Socialism.  When he wants to go through with nuclear disarmament and implement other programs, the Power Elite in the West hate it and go after him in A Very British Coup (1988), from the novel by Chris Mullin.


There are the public figures, including Browne (Alan MacNaughtan of The Sandbaggers series, reviewed elsewhere on this site) who have to keep on a certain face, the U.S. Secretary of State (Shane Rimmer) who tried open diplomacy before something more drastic is worked out, there are the media types (played by Philip Madoc and Jeremy Young among them) who may or may not tell the whole story as Perkins wants to break up media monopolies in the name of Democracy (something recently used against U.S. Presidential hopeful Howard Dean), and then there is the public who likes him so much that he is too popular for the good of the establishment insiders.  Some Hollywood films could offer such a set-up, but would water it down and make a mockery of the real issues.  This work does not.  Mick Jackson’s directing is a plus.


Done in three nearly hour-long installments, the teleplay by Alan Plater is very well laid out and articulate, surviving far after the issues the mini-series had to deal with what turned out to be the final years of The Cold War.  When the Prime Minister gets a money loan from the U.S.S.R. instead of the usual Western Capitalist sources, the Western elites fail to possibly see this as a route into the fall of Communism to be (which happened in real life in part), but as an absolute sign of a dangerous Communist influence.  The combination of nuclear disarmament and Socialist Party control of one of the greatest Capitalist countries of all time always causes a knee-jerk reactionary populist result, and with a popular Prime Minister with these ideas would be considered a crisis by certain interests.


The 1.33 X 1 full frame image is a bit aged, but just fine for the time it was produced.  Color is consistent, but the image is a touch hazy.  Cinematographer Ernie Vincze, B.S.C., comes up with a cooled visual look that works to the narrative’s advantage.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at best.  John Keane’s score is also subtly effective and dialogue is clear enough.  Good fidelity for its age.  Extras include an audio interview with author Mullin, who later became part of the more Liberal Tony Blair cabinet, now marred by his association with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush over Iraq.  The interview runs near twenty minutes.   There is also a text character glossary, inside a paper foldout in the DVD case, as well as a filmography on a bunch of cast members with stills on the disc itself.  That is a decent group for any TV production.


Mullin claims that the book never came out in the United States because all publishers told him there was no market for it, but that was disproved by the success of the book and mini-series.  I believe the publishers where simply scared of the material and backed off, which is far more the case and truth than even Mullen realizes.  The cases of censorship of the truth in the 1980s in the face of Iran-Contra, BCCI, the Savings & Loan Scandal and many other atrocities necessitated this so those responsible could get away with what they did.  Time is proving this true as you finish reading this review.  A Very British Coup is still ahead of its time and a major must-see, especially with the lack of such high quality programming around.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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