A Very English Scandal (TV series)

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A Very English Scandal
A Very English Scandal.png
Promotional poster
Genre Comedy-drama [1] [2] [3]
Based on A Very English Scandal
by John Preston
Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Stephen Frears
Composer(s) Murray Gold
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes3
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)Dan Winch
Editor(s)Pia Di Ciaula
Running time56 minutes
Production company(s) Blueprint Pictures
Original network BBC One
Picture format 2:1 1080p
Audio format Stereo
Original release20 May (2018-05-20) 
3 June 2018 (2018-06-03)
External links
Official website

A Very English Scandal is a fact-based three-part British television comedy-drama [4] [5] [6] miniseries based on John Preston's book of the same name. [7] [8] The series premiered on BBC One on 20 May 2018 and on Amazon Prime on 29 June 2018. [9] It is a dramatisation of the 1976–1979 Jeremy Thorpe scandal and the more than 15 years of events leading up to it.

Comedy-drama genre of theatre, film, and television

Comedy-drama or dramedy, is a genre in film and in television works in which plot elements are a combination of comedy and drama. It is a subgenre of contemporary tragicomedy. Comedy-drama is especially found in television programs and is considered a "hybrid genre".

A miniseries is a television program that tells a story in a predetermined, limited number of episodes. The term "serial" is used in the United Kingdom and in other Commonwealth nations, though its meaning does not necessary equate to "miniseries" in its usage.

John Preston is an English journalist and novelist.



In 1965, Jeremy Thorpe, a Liberal Member of Parliament, must contend with disgruntled ex-lover Norman Josiffe, whom he met in 1961 and had a relationship with for several years. Thorpe had met Norman when the latter was a 21-year-old stable boy in Oxfordshire, and wrote many letters to him, which Norman kept. Norman, who could never quite hold down a job, particularly not after having lost his National Insurance card, was unstable and had a penchant for drama and self-expression, both of which proved increasingly hard to deal with. When Thorpe grew tired of Norman and insisted that he leave the housing he arranged and paid for in London, the young man began to make threats.

Jeremy Thorpe British politician

John Jeremy Thorpe was a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament for North Devon from 1959 to 1979, and as leader of the Liberal Party between 1967 and 1976. In May 1979 he was tried at the Old Bailey on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder, arising from an earlier relationship with Norman Scott, a former model. Thorpe was acquitted on all charges, but the case, and the furore surrounding it, ended his political career.

Liberal Party (UK) political party of the United Kingdom, 1859–1988

The Liberal Party was one of the two major parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and free trade Peelites and Radicals favourable to the ideals of the American and French Revolutions in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and then won a landslide victory in the following year's general election.

Member of Parliament (United Kingdom) Voters representative in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, Member of Parliament (MP) is the title given to individuals elected to serve in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Thorpe fears exposure and the end of his political career. His fellow Liberal MP, Peter Bessell, keeps Norman silent for the time being with small amounts of money. Norman also requests a new National Insurance card from Thorpe, but his request is denied since it would link Thorpe to Norman.

Peter Joseph Bessell was a British Liberal Party politician, and Member of Parliament for Bodmin in Cornwall from 1964 to 1970.

By 1968, Thorpe has been elected as the Leader of the Liberal Party, and is the youngest man to lead the party in a century. He marries naive young Caroline Allpass and they have a baby boy. Norman, on the other hand, has become more unstable. Now going by the name Norman Scott, although he gets on well with horses and dogs, he fails to keep a job or relationship, drinks too much and abuses drugs. He calls Caroline and tells her about his past romance with her husband. She is stunned by this revelation.

Caroline dies in 1970, after swerving into on-coming traffic. Thorpe mourns her passing. Bessell moves to the United States to escape his financial troubles. Norman continues trying to get a new National Insurance card and have his story be heard, but with no success. Thorpe considers having him killed, but the plans are postponed multiple times.

In 1973, Thorpe marries Marion Stein, Countess of Harewood, and continues to climb the political ladder. Unfortunately, Thorpe encounters Norman by chance, panics, and tells David Holmes (an old friend from Oxford) to arrange for Norman's murder. Andrew Newton is hired for £10,000. He tries and fails spectacularly, only succeeding in killing Norman's dog. Norman immediately reports the crime to the police and is convinced it was ordered by Thorpe.

Maria Donata Nanetta Paulina Gustava Erwina Wilhelmine Stein, CBE, known as Marion Stein, and subsequently by marriage as Marion Lascelles, Countess of Harewood, and later Marion Thorpe, was an Austrian-born British concert pianist.

University of Oxford University in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly called 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

This results in the 1976–1979 Jeremy Thorpe scandal. Newton is put on trial and convicted of attempting to do harm to Norman. Soon afterwards, Norman requests from the police two letters from Thorpe he had given them in the 1960s. Thorpe decides to preemptively publish the two letters himself with his own version of events, and resigns as Leader of the Liberal Party in May 1976. He runs for re-election to Parliament, but loses his North Devon seat to Anthony Speller of the Conservatives.

Thorpe affair Political scandal concerning Jeremy Thorpe, an English MP

The Thorpe affair of the 1970s was a British political and sex scandal that ended the career of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party and Member of Parliament (MP) for North Devon. The scandal arose from allegations by Norman Josiffe that he and Thorpe had a homosexual relationship in the early 1960s, and that Thorpe had begun a badly-planned conspiracy to murder Josiffe, who was threatening to expose their affair.

North Devon (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

North Devon is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2015 by Peter Heaton-Jones of the Conservative Party.

Antony Kirby Speller was a British Conservative politician. Speller was born in Exeter on 12 June 1929, the son of Captain John Speller, director of posts and telegraphs for India, who later returned to take over the city’s Bystock Hotel. He was educated at Exeter School, before graduating in Economics from the University of London and in Social Studies from Exeter University.

Thorpe, Holmes and two other accused co-conspirators are put on trial for conspiring to murder Norman. Thorpe hires George Carman, a combative lawyer, to defend him. In May 1979, the trial gets underway and the media reports its every detail. Norman testifies, explaining that what he mainly wants is his National Insurance card and to have his story acknowledged. Chief Justice Cantley is strongly biased, and sides heavily with Thorpe in his instructions to the jury, which finds Thorpe and his co-conspirators not guilty.

The end credits of the miniseries note that Thorpe never held another public office. He and Marion remained married until her death in March 2014. Thorpe died nine months later. Bessell remained in the United States until his death in 1985. Norman is still alive, owns 11 dogs and still does not have a National Insurance card.




The series was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, with Hugh Grant starring as Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Scott. The BBC television drama was first announced on 4 May 2017. [10]

The miniseries comprises three 56-minute episodes.


Filming took place in London, Manchester, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, and South Wales. [11] [12] Although scenes were filmed outside the actual Houses of Parliament, the inner courts, interior hallways and staircase were represented by Manchester Town Hall, which is built in the same Gothic Revival style as the Palace of Westminster. [11] The offices of Thorpe and other MPs were created at Bulstrode Park, a vacant country house in Buckinghamshire. The grounds of Bulstrode were also used for the night time assassination attempt scene set on Exmoor. [11]

The town of Hertford was used as a stand-in for 1970's Barnstaple, while Saunton Sands in North Devon stood in for the California beach where Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings) lives in a seaside shack. [12] Bridgend in South Wales stood in for Dublin, while Norman's period living in Wales was filmed in and around Monknash. The show was able to film in the actual lobby and exterior of the Old Bailey in London, where the show's climactic scenes take place. A Very English Scandal was the first production ever to be granted permission to film in Court One of the Old Bailey, but they had to decline because of tight time restrictions, and ended up filming the court scenes at a courthouse in Kingston upon Thames. [11]


The series premiered on BBC One on 20 May 2018 and on Amazon Prime on 29 June 2018. [9] The DVD was released on 2 July 2018. [13]


Critical response

The miniseries received very positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 97% based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 9.05/10. Rotten Tomatoes's critical consensus reads, "Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw impress in A Very English Scandal, an equally absorbing and appalling look at British politics and society." [14] Metacritic gives the miniseries a weighted average rating of 84 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [15]

The real Norman Scott spoke out about the show's characterization of him and its portrayal of his life. He told the Irish News that "Artistic license is fine but this isn't my story. And there's nothing funny about someone trying to kill you...I'm portrayed as this poor, mincing, little gay person ... I also come across as a weakling and I've never been a weakling." [16]

Awards and nominations

2019 76th Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film
A Very English Scandal
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Hugh Grant
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Ben Whishaw
9th Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries
A Very English Scandal
Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries
Hugh Grant
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries
Ben Whishaw
25th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
Hugh Grant
23rd Satellite Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film
A Very English Scandal
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Hugh Grant
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Ben Whishaw
British Academy Television Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Hugh Grant Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Ben Whishaw Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Monica Dolan Nominated
Best Mini-seriesA Very English ScandalNominated
British Academy Television Craft Awards Costume Design Suzanne Cave Won
Director: Fiction Stephen Frears Won
Editing: Fiction Pia Di Ciaula Won
Makeup & Hair Design Daniel Phillips Nominated
Original Music Murray Gold Nominated
Production DesignHelen ScottNominated
Sound: FictionSound TeamNominated
Writer: Drama Russell T. Davies Nominated

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  2. "The makers and stars of A Very English Scandal discuss why comedy is so important to the story". Radio Times. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  3. "The Riveting Tragicomedy of 'A Very English Scandal'". Film School Rejects. 23 July 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  4. TV, What' s on (20 May 2018). "Ben Whishaw on playing Norman Scott: 'A Very English Scandal rips along like a bizarre comedy!'". What' s on TV. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  5. Gilbert, Sophie (3 July 2018). "'A Very English Scandal' Revisits an Affair That's Stranger Than Fiction". The Atlantic. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  6. Mangan, Lucy (20 May 2018). "A Very English Scandal review: funny and confident – like Jeremy Thorpe". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  7. Mitchell, Robert (22 May 2017). "Hugh Grant Returns to British TV for First Time in Nearly 25 Years". Variety.
  8. "A Very English Scandal". BBC Media Centre. BBC. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  9. 1 2 Lowry, Brian (29 June 2018). "Hugh Grant delivers in Amazon's brilliant 'A Very English Scandal'". CNN .
  10. Tartaglione, Nancy (21 May 2017). "Hugh Grant To Star In Stephen Frears' 'A Very English Scandal' For BBC One". Deadline.com.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Eleanor Bley Griffiths (3 June 2018). "Where is A Very English Scandal filmed?". Radio Times. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  12. 1 2 Joanne Kavanagh (3 June 2018). "Where's A Very English Scandal filmed? Filming locations in Hertford and Devon revealed". thesun.co.uk. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  13. "A Very English Scandal - DVD Release News". 27 June 2018.
  14. "A Very English Scandal: Miniseries (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  15. "A Very English Scandal". Metacritic .
  16. "Norman Scott criticises 'weakling' portrayal in BBC's A Very English Scandal". The Irish News. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 28 May 2018.