1 9 7 6 (UK)
6 x 80 minute episodes
Beginning in 1953, when its protagonists were all Cambridge undergraduates, The Glittering Prizes followed a group of young intellectuals through to their middle age in the 1970s, charting the ups and downs in their varied lives.
Taking the form of six 80-minute plays, the series won much critical acclaim. It was a characteristically sharp, witty and satirical portrait of a generation which went on to run the media 20 years later.
The central character was Adam Morris (Tom Conti), a scholarship student who became a wealthy novelist. Adam headed up three of the six plays, which saw him facing a series of events and relationships which were intended to impact upon his development as a person.
In the first, and possibly best play, ‘An Early Life’, many of Adam’s views on class and religion were challenged by the short life of his college roommate, Donald Davidson (David Robb), and he learned a useful lesson in self-denial.
In the third and possibly weakest play, ‘Past Life’, Adam had already published one novel to acclaim and began to write screenplays. At the start of the 1960s, he was asked by an old Cambridge chum, now a TV producer, to interview Stephen Taylor (Eric Porter), one of Britain’s leading fascists in the 1930s, only to find he had become a ranting madman.
In the final play, ‘Double Life’, Adam was discontent despite his success, his marriage broke down and he discovered that one of the brightest stars in his Cambridge firmament was now a helpless alcoholic.
The remaining plays charted the love lives of Adam’s circle, the rise of the media, and disillusion with university education in the 1960s.
The six-play format enabled author Frederic Raphael to explore a range of contemporary issues, such as sexual politics, abortion, class, religion, racism, homosexuality, the ascendancy of the media, yob culture, the erosion of prewar values and the legacy of fascism.
On a similar theme, Raphael followed up with Oxbridge Blues, seven plays screened in 1984.