1 9 6 7 – 1 9 6 8 (UK)
30 x 50 minute episodes
Widowed Joe Champion (Edward Chapman) was the hot-headed tribal patriarch of the Champion wool family of Bradford and he hated the Inland Revenue with a passion.
He had started work when he was 12-years-old and had founded a mill and made a fortune from it by the time he was 40. He had sweated for it though – and sweated others for it.
Now in his sixties, Joe – as dangerous and cunning as a hunted boar – had decided that if he couldn’t take it with him he was going to make absolutely sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer wouldn’t take it either and had made arrangements to avoid death duties.
Joe’s had two sons – Edward (Maurice Kaufmann) the younger had run off to London many years ago to study art, and Joe had virtually cut him out of his life. Elder son, Jack, was a good, solid conformist type who treated his father’s commands as if they had come straight from Sinai on tablets of stone.
Jack himself had two children, Stephen (James Kerry) and Liz (Virginia Stride). This was vitally important to Joe – there must always be a Champion to carry on the mill.
By Deed of Gift, Joe had made over most of the mill to dear, dull, dependable Jack. It was an ideal arrangement because it meant Joe could remain the de facto boss of the mill since Joe obeyed him like an automaton.
At the same time, it would avoid the crippling burden of death duties – provided Joe didn’t die within the five-year period necessary to make the Deed of Gift effective.
And Joe – sixty-five and tough as an army issue jungle boot – had no intention of doing anything so stupid. But the best-laid plans go astray and within a few weeks of the Deed of Gift, it was Jack that died.
So Joe suddenly found himself faced with a financial crisis that could mean the end of the mill – and a new boss could mean the end of him. A real boss this time: his 28-year-old grandson, Stephen, now Managing Director and biggest single shareholder, who wouldn’t do as he was told by anyone. Least of all Joe.
When this BBC drama series debuted on Sunday 28 May 1967, Stephen was convinced that the only hope for Champion Mills was a merger with rival company Multitex, Joe would go to any lengths to stop it.
Over 30 episodes, the struggle for power between Stephen and Joe was a consistent source of conflict and drama, drawing everyone into the fight – Stephen’s sister, Liz; the prodigal Edward; and even Edward’s French wife, Michele (Nicole Maurey) – one of the few people who could handle Joe in a fighting mood.