Friday, October 05, 2007

British Political Fantasy

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard

This six-hour BBC miniseries tells the story of a grocery store manager who decides, after watching two candidates for Parliament engage in fisticuffs outside her store, that she could do a better job. As luck would have it, a TV camera catches her saying so, and soon she finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind political movement. She inspires other women to run for office, and many defect from their political parties to join her. Come election day, her party wins—and she becomes prime minister. (Forgive me—I’ve just told you how the first hour ends.)

But all is not so simple for Ros Pritchard, the titular star of the show (played with aplomb by Jane Horrocks). Her husband does not support her choice and urges her to refuse the job, fearful that his own secrets will come to light if she takes office. And within hours of her election, she faces the first of several crises that demonstrate to her that being a world leader is tougher than it looked on TV.

Ros rises to the challenge, though, and for four of its six hours this miniseries is a delightful fantasy about how the world would be if “the great British people” got behind a leader with common-sense ideas and a desire to effect real change. Supporting players generate much of the interest, with no one’s story more compelling and intriguing than that of Catherine Walker, a former Tory and now the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Catherine is the voice of wisdom and experience that Ros desperately needs, but as portrayed by the stellar Janet McTeer she is a woman with regrets that need working out, as well. Watching her work through her own issues while keeping the country running is a gripping experience.

I limit myself to four of five stars because the final hour of the series goes a bit off the rails. Without giving anything away, all I dare say is that the two days depicted in the last hour proceed as if the responsibilities of government have been temporarily suspended. And Americans, used to our tidy endings, probably won’t love the way the series concludes; the text at the end, which British audiences evidently did not see when the program aired on the BBC, seems to wrap things up in a bow but actually makes the conclusion less believable.

Despite that, this is a fine series that anyone with an interest in politics will heartily enjoy. Bonus points if you’re an Anglophile!

This review has been posted on The Amazing Mrs Pritchard will be released October 30 and was provided for review early as part of Amazon's Vine program.


Caroline said...

That's a fair review; "a bit off the rails" is an apt way of describing the final episode.

But what do you mean by the text at the end? I just finished watching the series on PBS last night, and saw no text. Please tell me the miniseries had an Animal House ending.

Richard said...


I guess PBS ran the original BBC version, which did not contain the text.

The DVD tells you what happened afterward. Ros steps down, saying she has made her point. She and her husband go back to Eatanswill and live happily ever after. Catherine Walker takes over the Purple Alliance and successfully takes the reins as prime minister. She never marries.