Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pilot Review: A Very English Scandal

A Very English Scandal (Amazon)
Premiered June 29

There are many different ways to tell a story. Doing so through present-set conversations interrupted by flashbacks to key events is a very common one employed, and it can quickly become tiring if it’s not used properly. But there are cases in which it’s exactly right, and for this three-part BBC One miniseries available on Amazon Prime, it’s perfect. Where it proves most helpful is in covering a lot of material in a short period of time, with this first installment, running less than an hour, managing to paint an incredible portrait of its protagonist. Hugh Grant has been back in the spotlight lately after a successful career in the early 1990s and 2000s, and previously bounced back after his own public relations incident following an arrest for having sex with a prostitute. He has received accolades for his performances in “Florence Foster Jenkins” and “Paddington 2,” and the role of Jeremy Thorpe as written here is one he seems born to play. The way he speaks matches the tone and meter of this show, which is assisted by a wondrously buoyant score that makes this story extremely entertaining. Alex Jennings, who played the Duke of Winsdor on “The Crown,” is a great scene partner for Grant as Peter, who helped him suppress much of this scandal, and Ben Whishaw, who voiced Paddington and appeared in many films including “The Lobster,” does a great job making Norman into just the kind of person who could fall completely in love with this JT before spiraling out of control and becoming a total liability. I didn’t expect to want to continue with this show, but given its energetic pacing and sharp editing, I think I can stick around for two more episodes to find out how it all plays out.

How will it work as a series? Both men were involved in serious relationships with women that weren’t going well for different reasons, Jeremy’s because he is, as he says, 80% gay, and Norman because of his dependence on drugs and alcohol. Norman calling Jeremy’s wife to demand his insurance card means things are going to fall apart quickly, especially considering Jeremy’s response to those events, which should be plenty interesting and thrilling.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty good, and I think that Amazon audiences will want to watch both because of Grant’s involvement and because of this saga’s historical nature. Regardless, I think the whole story is told within these three parts, and therefore this is one of those rare miniseries that just won’t continue beyond its initial order unless there’s another similarly English scandal to be spotlighted.

Pilot grade: B+

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