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TV Review: A Very English Scandal

Blush-blush affair: Hugh Grant as the disgraced 1970s MP Jeremy Thorpe PICTURE: LUDOVIC ROBERT/BBC


A Very English Scandal

BBC1, ★★★★★

THERE are lines in A Very English Scandal that could make the unsuspecting go a little weak at the knees. Picture, for example, Hugh Grant in the bedroom, manfully barking the instruction ‘just hop on to all fours, that’s a good chap — that always works best don’t you think?’ Phew Hugh, don’t spare the blushes.

There, in a nutshell, you have the masterstroke of this jaunty, highly entertaining account of the Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott affair that rocked 1970s politics: the casting of Hugh Grant.

It’s kicked up a fuss of its own: not only does Scott, played by Ben Whishaw, dispute the way the relationship is depicted but questions hang over how Grant, zealous defender of privacy against press intrusion, has the front to star in a show where invasion of privacy is its driving force.

Grant’s an actor, he’s playing a role, let’s not conflate the two. But casting every woman’s former fantasy-bit-of-smooth as the closeted Liberal leader whose dalliance with stable lad/model Scott wrecked his career gives this three-part drama, how shall I put it? Edge.

Grant’s Thorpe is charismatic company yet essentially deeply sad, a stranger even to himself. It’s a very English kind of suffering.