Every time that I read a feature on how HBO and Netflix have reinvented television and until they came along it was all just London To Brighton In Four Minutes and the Potter’s Wheel singing I’m Your Puppet until it turned into the ‘white’ dot’ at half past three or something, I’m inclined to think about this episode of a mainstream primetime late sixties ITV light drama dealing with the counterculture and drug parties in a realistic and even – within reason – sympathetic manner. For years, very few people believed me that this episode of Hadleigh even existed; it’s actually since been released on DVD (by – who else – Network), but I’ve opted to retain the screengrabs taken from my original off-air VHS here, as, well, that’s the the whole point of the feature really.
I was thrilled by the response to this when it was originally published, which saw scores of readers asking where they could find it; clearly it struck as substantial a chord as it did with me when I saw it very late one Sunday way back when. I don’t doubt a fair number of them also fondly recall the long-lost days when ‘archive’ and ‘cool’ weirdly collided too, though the straight line you can draw between Cult TV magazine and TV Years magazine does suggest that maybe those days aren’t quite so long-lost after all. I’m very fond of this piece and you can find a much longer version of it, with much more about the joys of channel surfing at the height of Britpop and indeed more on Hadleigh itself, in Can’t Help Thinking About Me, available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
Mention long-lost Cable TV channel Bravo, and most people will remember it as some sort of nightmarish collision of FHM and TV Zone, pitching the likes of Street Hawk and The New Avengers alongside the prosaically titled Hard Bastards and When Hidden Cameras Attack. Given that their audiences probably weren’t exactly awash with hard-partying hedonists who went out re-enacting the Smack My Bitch Up video before coming home and throwing up their unholy cocktail of alcopops, cocaine and chilli sauce-sloshed kebab over their strictly chronologically-arranged copies of Doctor Who Classic Comics, it’s hard to determine precisely who they were aiming their output at.
Before they started chasing this bewildering demographic, though, Bravo had another short-lived and little-remembered – if equally obscurely targeted – entertainment agenda. Backed up by RKO-evoking stings and idents with appropriately dusty-sounding fanfares, Bravo in its original incarnation aspired towards some sort of rainy Bank Holiday afternoon-style uniformly monochrome high watermark of ‘Golden Age’-slanted classic entertainment. Song and dance-heavy Hollywood extravaganzas rubbed shoulders with ancient American sitcoms and, erm, Torchy The Battery Boy. There was very little risk of accidentally stumbling across a late-night showing of Zombie Creeping Flesh in those days.
What you might well have stumbled across, though, was an unlikely and long-forgotten UK television show. With their choices already limited by the parlous state of the black and white-era archives, and limited further still by UK Gold and Granada Plus already having the rights to most of what little did still exist, Bravo had little option but to go rooting around for the more obscure BBC and ITV shows of yesteryear. One such more obscure series that they ended up pulling off a doubtless hazardously dusty shelf was Hadleigh, Yorkshire TV’s light drama that ran for an impressive fifty two episodes between 1969 and 1976, but had barely even been mentioned since then.
A spinoff from Gazette, Yorkshire’s 1968 series about the thrills and spills of life in a local newspaper office, Hadleigh retained that show’s unexpected ‘breakout’ character, wealthy yet civically-minded proprietor James Hadleigh. Swinging dandy-about-town Hadleigh had recently inherited the paper, along with a title, land, ancestral home and seemingly inexhaustible artillery of paisley cravats, from his late father, but in spirit belonged to a younger generation in touch with progressive ideals and resentful of the selfish attitudes of the landed gentry. Adding insult to social faux-pas, he consistently shunned all entreaties to ‘marry rich’ in favour of on-off dalliances with local ladies from – gasp – the middle class, with a particular ‘thing’ for schoolteachers. If you’re understandably thinking that this sounds a somewhat flimsy premise to hang a television show that you expected to run for more than three episodes on, it’s worth keeping in mind that, even then, this was still a mildly contentious stance in the face of ongoing class-cultural upheaval; and, more to the point, allowed the production team to venture into all manner of then-socially contentious issues.
Back in 1969, issues didn’t come much more socially contentious than recreational use of powerful hallucinogens, yet that’s exactly what Hadleigh found himself up against in Patron Of The Arts, the fifth episode of the first series, originally broadcast by ITV on 14th October 1969. It would probably have provoked fewer furious letters to TV Times by the time that it rolled up late one Sunday night on Bravo, but nonetheless it still looked startling and, frankly, startlingly realistic. Not for Hadleigh a music festival crammed with Ronnie Corbett’s idea of ‘hippies’ saying ‘hey man’ to all and sundry, but a realistic-looking house party full of presentable young people having fun expanding their minds, and if you’re thinking that sounds unlikely to the point of impossibility then just swallow this sugarcube and let’s set off on a voyage across an ocean, wave off our minds, our sense and motion, and get lost in a wonderland of colour and of sound. Only with slightly more expensive suits.
Hadleigh opens with a simple but effective title sequence showing Gerald Harper – doubtless relieved that his first major post-Adam Adamant Lives! gig was somewhat more on the conventional side – going about his silk-tied business, riding around various properties and businesses in an expensive car before being shown ‘relaxing’ via horse riding and clay pigeon shooting. This is accompanied by Alan Moorhouse’s startling theme music, in which a blaring brass-led melody – bearing more than a passing resemblance to High On A Hill, the now highly collectable instrumental single Moorhouse had written for sixties talent show winner Nigel Hopkins only a couple of months earlier – does battle with over-energetic bongos and an alarming series of firework-esque ricochets from a Hammond Organ. This was presumably intended to signify the ‘culture clash’ of Hadleigh’s lifestyle, and if so then it does the job more than effectively. The Forsyte Saga this is most evidently not.
The episode begins with Hadleigh meeting with local Lord Lieutenant Sir George Withy, who is keen for him to follow in the family footsteps and become a Justice Of The Peace. They are looking, it transpires, for someone who can talk to young offenders in their own language, particularly following an incident the previous week in which a “young bastard” – yes, they really do say that – raided a sweetshop, jostled the elderly female proprietor, and in his most hideous and indefensible action “laughed in old Crawford’s face” when sentenced. Initially reluctant, Hadleigh has been just about talked into it when they are interrupted by some bland and generic-sounding library music issuing from the next room. “What’s that extraordinary noise?”, asks Sir George as he gets up to leave. A pop record from 1964, by the sound of it.
It turns out that the popular beat combo in question are ‘The Pink Shape’, and their latest hot disc is issuing from a transistor radio owned by Hadleigh’s secretary Lolly, as played by an extremely young Paula Wilcox. After serving up some instant coffee, which Hadleigh controversially professes to prefer to the genuine article, she begins dancing coyly to said Pink Shape hit parade smash and asks her employer if he would like to come to her birthday party. Hadleigh is surprised and a tad reluctant, causing a clearly quite crush-stricken Lolly to pull a face and mention that her friends had “dared me I wouldn’t invite you”, and could only conclude that she must have just imagined that he liked her. This clumsy attempt at reverse psychology has the desired effect and he agrees to show his face at her auntie’s house at the allotted time, although Lolly’s instructions on how to get there via the 92 bus from outside the Odeon only occasion an exasperated look and an offer of a lift. As Lolly prepares to leave, Hadleigh takes the opportunity to point out that he doesn’t know what her name is actually short for. “Lolita”, she replies with a wink. Ahem.
Informing his butler Maxwell that he won’t need a driver tonight as he’ll be sticking to soft drinks – yeah, and the rest – Hadleigh picks up a transistor-toting Lolly in his Rolls Royce, pausing only to ask her if they’re still listening to The Pink Shape – “no, it’s The Idiots” – before pulling up outside a bland semi. Inside, Lolly’s George Layton-resembling zonked-out hippy pals are passing around bits of card and suspiciously thick cigarettes, with a couple of them venturing as far as to sway indeterminately to far-out psychedelic sounds, when a young Christian Rodska approaches Hadleigh to venture some of his Acid-fuelled insight. “He who knows the masculine and yet keeps to the feminine will become a channel drawing all the world towards it, and he who knows the white and yet keeps to the black will become the standard of the world”, apparently. Hadleigh, who in turn offers the wisdom that he has to be up early the next morning, feels decidedly out of place but does partake in a snifter of ‘fire water’. Upon which the record player blasts out what appears to be a showband version of Led Zeppelin, and Lolly briefly persuades Hadleigh to dance before he is again accosted by the pre-Follyfoot prophet in full zen-dispensing flow. “It’s a well-worn scene man, a well-worn scene” – “Yes, you’ve certainly got a point there”.
Even apart from the impressively underplayed depictions of drug taking and drug effects – which, rather than moralising per se, carefully emphasise just how tedious the majority of babbling psychedelic voyagers are – what’s remarkable about this extended sequence is just how effectively it captures the stop-start to-ing and fro-ing of a genuine house party. So much so, in fact, that a concerned neighbour makes an anonymous call to the rozzers to tip them off about the legally-dubious happenings. Presumably they’d been keeping up with all that stuff about Mars Bars in the tabloids. The police are clearly in no particular hurry to put a stop to it, though, as there’s enough time for a plunky sitar groover to play out while Hadleigh partially fends off a huge drunken come-on from Lolly and heroically endures an extended business plan presentation from his new friend (“…and I shall call it the theatre of contemplation!” – “But if there are no words and no actors, what are they contemplating?” – “I shall place a number of evocative articles on the stage – an umbrella, a teddy bear, a beer bottle… light them significantly, and have electronic music… after a time, each member of the audience will respond according to his subconscious, and leave the theatre the richer for it” – “Will you, do you think?” – “Humour, was that?” – “No, I was just trying to assess your chances of success”) before they pull up outside very very slowly to the accompaniment of what sounds suspiciously like Mr. Bloe would have done if he only had a toy harmonica to groove with.
Lolly seems to be finally wearing down Hadleigh’s romantic defences just as the coppers complete their eighteen hour walk up the drive. An unidentified Kinks-y song greets the arrival of Sergeant Banstead, who makes a beeline for Hadleigh, having already spotted his car outside. The Sergeant offers him the chance to slip quietly out of the back door, but Hadleigh not only refuses but actually stands up for the long-haired layabouts he’s been partying with, arguing that the police can surely make better use of their time and resources, and insisting on being searched along with everyone else. After they have successfully felt a couple of collars, Hadleigh tries to leave with Lolly – aye fucking aye – but they are stopped by a constable who insists that she’s still technically a suspect. Hadleigh insists that he can not only vouch for her good character but will be happy to do so to his good friend the Chief Inspector, upon which they suddenly decide everything is perfectly fine and he can proceed on his way by himself of his own accord. The other partygoers aren’t quite so fortunate, however, and are bundled out of the house along with a projector and an armful of Indian devotional music long-players. “What’s the charge, guv?” asks one of the massed George Laytons. “Don’t act innocent with me Snow White, we found the Seven Dwarves”. So possession of illegally copied Disney film prints, then.
Back at home the next morning, Hadleigh is complaining of his digestive system being temporarily ‘stunned’ when Maxwell appears to inform him that a mysterious and “rather seedy” gentleman, has turned up demanding an audience; and who also, in a disconcertingly subtle back-reference, is carrying a copy of “that book there was all that trouble about”. This, it transpires, is Miles Crispin, a somewhat dubious ‘photographer’ played by TV’s Mestor The Gastropod himself, Edwin Richfield. It soon transpires that Crispin is not there to tout for work, but rather to “dispose of the copyright” of some photographs he has taken recently. Yes, as you’ve doubtless already guessed, he got wind of the party and its likely guest list – from Lolly, who moonlights as one of his models – and has taken a couple of compromising ten-by-eights that he would be happy to offload for somewhere in the region of twenty thousand quid.
Even though the pictures only appear to show him and Lolly leaving the premises, Hadleigh is concerned enough to offer Crispin a sherry and hear him out. Despite Crispin’s warning that “people never read the harmless explanations… they’re in such small print, they only look at the pictures”, Hadleigh initially stands his ground, believing his character will stand him in good stead. Crispin duly offers the additional information that in one upstairs room “there were blue movies of a… particularly nauseating shade” – though presumably still ‘blue’ – while in another “elderly voyeurs were catered for with a little balletic improvisation”, combining to make up a Lord Longford-alarming smorgasbord that would not only present a challenge the very best of good names, but would also most likely dissuade any self-respecting high-ranking police officer from risking association by speaking up for anyone who might have been there. In a last ditch attempt at reasoning with Crispin, Hadleigh demands to know his motivation for blackmailing an innocent man. Turns out it’s money, pure and simple, with a side order of clumsily expressed class warfare rhetoric. “Well”, responds the surprisingly sanguine blackmailee, “you’re certainly curing my hangover”.
Sarcastically expressing a desire that Crispin will put the money to civic use, Hadleigh agrees to hand over the cash at a prearranged time and place, on the condition that “you’ll allow me to deduct the cost of the briefcase”. Seemingly satisfied, Crispin leaves, but on his way out remarks almost matter-of-factly that one of the paintings hanging on Hadleigh’s office wall is clearly a forgery. This, combined with Crispin’s poorly concealed educated demeanour and accidentally disclosed knowledge of expensive alcoholic beverages, is enough to start Hadleigh suspecting that, in true The Curious Orange? A Cardboard Box? Jelly? fashion, something here is awry.
Acting on this sizeable hunch, Hadleigh pays a visit to Charles Lancing’s gallery, where the harrassed proprietor is trying to fend off a pair of loud Americans voicing suspicion that he’s trying to palm them off with a load of goddamn baloney. It turns out that Lancing remembers Miles Crispin only too well, as a talented painter but also an “uncompromising bastard” who alienated dealers and priced himself out of the market. What’s more, matters got worse from there – his wife died, he got mixed up with some shady types who pressured him into producing fake Van Goghs, and was last heard of up to his easel in pornography (“Blue Movies?” – “Well, fifteen years ago they didn’t move…”). Keen to avoid any negative publicity, Lancing sold all of Crispin’s works in his collection to another gallery in Colchester, which – as you may have already worked out – is our next port of call. The unnamed giddy posh custodian at this next gallery is more than pleased to see Hadleigh, and repeatedly offers to show him her ‘Sunset At Clacton’. Perhaps sensing that he’s already in enough hot water with the ladies, Hadleigh politely declines and insists that he’s just there to see the Crispins. After clarifying that this isn’t actually a variety of biscuit, he’s invited for a ‘rummage’ in her storeroom, where whatever tension he may have been fending off is sated by the discovery of a series of well-rendered if dusty and neglected nudes. “It’s frank, isn’t it?”, notes the gallery owner.
Not nearly as frank as the scene that follows it, in which we see Crispin hard at work in his studio, painting a nude study of a surprisingly-revealed-for-1969 Lolly. She’s not happy when he makes her turn off more of her blasted ‘pop’ music, and even less happy still when he relates his blackmail plot, retorting that her employer is a nice man and is being treated unfairly, and anyway, didn’t Crispin go to one of them posh schools himself? This makes him ever so slightly furious, though his temper is subdued by, in turn, Lolly booting him in the knackers and an unexpected ring on the doorbell. Despite momentary panic that it might be the police, it turns out to be – surprise surprise – Hadleigh. He’s got the money but has deducted fifteen quid for the briefcase. “I said not more than ten”, snarls Crispin. “Well, what’s a fiver between connoisseurs?”.
Hadleigh gets straight in with a critical appraisal of his work, and while Crispin tries to rebuff this by reminding him that “you’re not on Late Night Line-Up“, Lolly sees her chance to help and whips out her favourite of his renderings of her – a JH Lynch-esque baps-ahoy number that presumably kept any teenage viewers that were looking in excited for an entire fortnight. Speaking from an art-loving rather than knocker-loving perspective, Hadleigh opines that a work like that ought to be seen, and reveals that the briefcase is actually stuffed with old newspaper; his offer instead is to donate a grant to allow Crispin to resume serious painting, and what’s more he’ll pull some strings and arrange for Lancing to mount a high-profile retrospective of his work. A humiliated Crispin declines, and asks the unwanted “deus ex machina bettering the lives of poor unfortunates” to leave. Which Hadleigh duly does, noting on his way to the door that he now wants to pay the original demanded sum out of sheer irritation. Erm, however that works exactly.
Back at home, Hadleigh is discussing Crispin’s work with an equally artistically impressed Maxwell, and pondering on what would drive a man to refuse to be helped (“Pride, Sir”), when Crispin arrives, bearing both his genuine accent and a hefty slice of humble pie. He is taken aback to see one of his prints up on the wall in place of the forgery, expresses surprisingly explicit regret for his porn work and genuine lament for an artistic interest in the female form gone wrong, and breaks the ice by jokingly referring to Hadleigh as “more patronising than a Tory landlord”. Over a glass of the expensive stuff, the two unlikely associates toast their new business agreement, with Hadleigh musing that “we don’t want a slow fade to soft music, do we?”. No, what we want is the end credits over a carefully cropped nude of lolly with a full-length album-edit 12″ extended version of the theme music complete with over-extravagant middle eight, and that’s precisely what we get. And, well, that’s Hadleigh. On ‘drugs’.
Patron Of The Arts does, it has to be said, have what feels like a flimsy cop-out ending, but it’s also fair to say that it probably packed more of a viewer-surprising punch back at the tail-end of the sixties, when the upper classes were still at least halfway honest about their nose-looking-down proclivities rather than clowning around on panel shows pretending to be an ordinary common folk just like all of you at home until everyone’s conned into agreeing to something for the sake of further lining their pockets. Indeed, to describe this as ‘light drama’ seems a tad unfair, especially when you take the frank, realistic and atypically sympathetic depiction of recreational drug use into account, even if it was clearly written by someone who had had just about enough of their friends turning into ‘visionary’ dullards who wouldn’t bloody shut up. It’s also quite surprising to find such a subtle yet undeniable sense of disdain for the police and their law-bending bias towards the great and good; the sniffy rubber-gloved attitude towards ‘obscene’ art is slightly more as might be expected, although it would be interesting to ponder on whether this stance might have changed following the Open Space Theatre raid and the Oz Trial only a couple of months later. Admittedly Lolly’s rather passive role in her starring episode does leave a little to be desired, but this was 1969, and anyway she did get to stand up for herself physically in an impressively eye-watering fashion.
More surprising still is the substantial element of self-awareness verging on postmodernism that runs throughout the entire episode. From jibes at cliched fade-outs to swipes at whatever was on ‘the other side’ at the time – not to mention Hadleigh’s constant sharp rejoinders that chime so closely with the viewer’s perspective that they may as well be addressed directly to camera – there’s a sense that the production team were intentionally trying to position the show somewhere outside the pigeonhole of nattily-dressed fluff, and while these may not seem quite as wildly deconstructionist now, and even at the time were hardly as ‘out there’ as The Strange World Of Gurney Slade, it’s still something of a surprise to find such leanings in such an apparently ordinary and unremarkable show. On top of that, it’s also a decent bit of light drama and Gerald Harper is superb as the lead. It would be a stretch to call Hadleigh an undiscovered classic of television that should be up there with The Prisoner and Up The Junction, but it’s certainly proof that you can still find enjoyable surprises in the most unlikely and overlooked of places.
What’s more, with its nudity, choice language, unflinching drug references and thorough disrespect for the conventions of decent society, this episode of Hadleigh was probably more extreme than anything else shown by Bravo. Stitch that, Brits Behind Bars.
Buy A Book!
You can find an expanded version of this feature on Hadleigh, with more on the strange archival output of early cable television channels, in Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
A Story Of A London Family Adapting To Life In A Country Town is a feature on the BBC’s mid-sixties soap opera The Newcomers; you can find it here.
You can find my thoughts on Big Finish’s revival of Adam Adamant Lives! here.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.