Monday, 20 July 2015
Brideshead Revisited Often
Brideshead is 70
Brideshead Revisited — or to give it its full title, Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder — celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Evelyn Waugh's wonderful novel spawned the greatest TV series ever made (just pipping Passion for Angling, the second greatest and quietest) — perhaps more enjoyable than the book itself, which has been described as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
Series Triggers a Fop Epidemic in the UK
The TV series was produced by Granada Television in 1981. When it was first broadcast it triggered a fop epidemic in the UK, coinciding nicely with the New Romantic movement. You couldn't move for side-swept partings and biscuit-coloured hopsack.
Will we see a prime-time TV re-run on a Saturday evening? Unlikely. That doesn't have to prevent us from seeing it. We have Tweed TV.
Since we cancelled the TV license for Tweed Towers a couple of years ago — you get a refund! — we haven't needed to sit out the grim scheduling until something of merit appeared.
Ensconced as Director General of Tweed TV, I control the scheduling using on-demand streaming services and recordings to create our own effulgent, carefully edited schedule.
The schedule has a world view that seldom strays from my narrow self interest. Brideshead Revisited and Passion for Angling are in constant rotation on Tweed TV. (What outside world?)
Any recommendations for the Tweed TV schedules very welcome. You'll know what we'd like.
The Series Itself
The series sticks faithfully to the novel's plot, Waugh being credited as co-writer. Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons), an army officer, looks back at his earlier life before the onset of the Second World War.
As our narrator, Ryder recalls the innocent days, now lost, when he was studying at Oxford and falls in with an aesthetic crowd that includes Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews). They become good friends and Charles spends time at Flyte's ancestral home, Brideshead in Wiltshire. We there follow Charles' elegiac recollections of the family's entanglements and eventual disintegration.
The production of the series is second-to-none, with the finest retinue of actors ever brought together for the small screen, great locations and costumes, and a perfectly fitting score by Geoffrey Burgon that sums up the sense of loss, both societal and personal, that the story conveys.
It can be argued that the inter-war period depicted in Brideshead marks the peak in English civilised life. Current events might tell us civilisation doesn't come easy, and barbarity is only ever in remission as we descend the curve ever further. We have to continually fight for the right of a chap to trot around Oxford clutching a teddy bear dishing out plover's eggs to all and sundry.
The series is available as a remastered box set [Amazon], which was released for its 30th anniversary. Why not throw your TV licence in the bin and add it to your own schedule?