Brass (TV series)
|Directed by||Les Chatfield|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||32|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Granada Television|
|Original channel||ITV (1983–1984)
Channel 4 (1990)
|Original airing||ITV series:
21 February 1983 –
20 August 1984
Channel 4 series:
23 April – 28 May 1990
Set mostly in Utterley, a fictional Lancashire mining town in the 1930s, Brass was a comedy satirising the working-class period dramas of the 1970s (most significantly When the Boat Comes In) and the American supersoaps such as Dallas and Dynasty. Unusually for ITV comedies of the time, there was no laughter track and the humour deliberately kept extremely dry, using convoluted wordplay and subtle commentary on popular culture. Brass is northern English slang for "money" as well as for "effrontery". The series also gleefully parodied the 1977 Granada TV dramatisation of Dickens' Hard Times, which also starred Timothy West.
The series, created by John Stevenson and Julian Roach, was set around two feuding families—the wealthy Hardacres and the poor, working-class Fairchilds, who lived in a small terraced house rented from the Hardacre empire. The Hardacre family was headed by the ruthless self-made businessman Bradley (Timothy West), who espoused Thatcherite rhetoric while coming up with various harebrained schemes to make his businesses more efficient so he could sack workers, and his alcoholic aristocratic wife Lady Patience (Caroline Blakiston). The head of the Fairchilds was the stern "Red" Agnes (Barbara Ewing), who spread militant socialist rhetoric around the Hardacre mine, mill and munitions factory, and her doltish, forelock-tugging husband George (Geoffrey Hinsliff— Geoffrey Hutchings in the 1990 series), who is dominated by his wife and his boss. In a twist, Agnes was also Bradley Hardacre's mistress.
Other characters in the series were the children of the families. The Fairchilds had two sons—Jack (Shaun Scott), a defiant miner, and Matthew (Gary Cady), a sensitive clerk who wrote very poor verse. The Hardacre children were Bentley (deceased; his memorial stone is featured in the first episode), nymphomaniac Isobel (Gail Harrison), innocent budding feminist Charlotte (Emily Morgan), ambitious heir to the Hardacre empire Austin (Robert Reynolds) (Patrick Pearson in the 1990 series) and Morris (James Saxon), a gay Cambridge student with a fondness for teddy bears (cf. Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited). Bentley, Austin and Morris are named after British car manufacturers. Jack and Matt were named after items used in the game of bowls.
Not only were Bradley and Agnes lovers, with Bradley being most likely the father of Matthew, but Isobel and Jack were also lovers and afterwards it was revealed that Charlotte was not Bradley's daughter but the result of an affair between Lady Patience and the elderly Lord Mountfast, whom Isobel married. Charlotte married Matthew, to whom Morris Hardacre had at one time been attracted. To complicate matters even further Lady Patience also had a brief fling with Matthew Fairchild.
Despite his wealth and social connections, Bradley had been brought up in the Utterley Cottage workhouse and had made his money himself, obviously not legally or fairly.
Apart from the Hardacres and the Fairchilds the most significant other character was the Scottish idealist, Dr. McDuff, played by David Ashton and satirising Dr. Finlay of Dr Finlay's Casebook.
Brass ran for two series on ITV, shown between 1982 and 1984 but was brought back for a third series in 1990 on Channel 4, set in 1939. This third series saw the Hardacres move to London and later to a country mansion called Yonderley but making frequent trips to Utterley or Swarfside, where the Hardacre business empire was still based. The Fairchilds had also moved to London as Agnes was now MP for Utterley.
The series is available on DVD in the United Kingdom.