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 three-part British television comedy-drama miniseries based on John Preston's book of the same name. [4] [5] [6] [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 more than 15 years of events leading up to it.



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 house he had arranged and paid for in London, the young man began to make threats. 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.

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 has become more unstable; 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 uses 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 death. 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 repeatedly postponed.

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 killing Norman's dog. Norman immediately reports the crime to the police and is convinced it was ordered by Thorpe.

This results in the 1976–1979 Thorpe affair; 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 forestall Norman by publishing the 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, 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 begins 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 flagrantly biased and sides 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 and 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, with Grant already cast as Thorpe. [10] Ben Whishaw was announced to join the cast in August, [11] and the rest of the cast was announced in October. [12] Along with the further casting announcement, Amazon took the U.S rights for the show. [12] The miniseries comprises three 56-minute episodes.


Filming took place in London, Manchester, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Hertfordshire and South Wales. [13] Although scenes were filmed outside the 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. [13] 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. [13]

The town of Hertford was used as a stand-in for 1970s Barnstaple, while Saunton Sands in North Devon stood in for the California beach where Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings) lives in a seaside shack. [13] 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 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 filmed the court scenes at a courthouse in Kingston upon Thames. [13]


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. [14]


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". [15] Metacritic gives the miniseries a weighted average rating of 84 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [16] In 2019, the series was ranked 76th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century. [17]

The real Norman Scott spoke out about the show's characterisation 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". [18]

Awards and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor - Limited Series Hugh GrantNominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor - Limited Series Ben WhishawWon
Outstanding Directing - Limited Series Stephen FrearsNominated
Outstanding Writing - Limited Series Russell T. DaviesNominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film A Very English ScandalNominated
Best Actor – Miniseries or TV Movie Hugh Grant Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ben Whishaw Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries Hugh GrantNominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie/Miniseries A Very English ScandalNominated
Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Hugh GrantNominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Ben WhishawWon
British Academy Television Awards Best Mini-series A Very English ScandalNominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Hugh GrantNominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Ben WhishawWon
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Monica Dolan Nominated
British Academy Television Craft Awards Costume DesignSuzanne CaveWon
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
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries A Very English ScandalNominated
Best Actor – Miniseries Hugh GrantNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Miniseries Ben WhishawNominated

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