1 9 7 3 (UK)
13 x 60 minute episodes
Three years after Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch, Britain had a feminist magazine (Spare Rib) and Richard Bates finally persuaded LWT to make Helen – A Woman of Today – a serial featuring a non-too-glamorous woman in her thirties choosing to end her marriage – after all the other TV companies had rejected it.
Richard Bates’ idea was a follow-up to A Man of Our Times, the 1968 series starring George Cole as a man at a crisis point in his life.
Here, in thirteen parts directed by Jim Goddard, Alison Fiske played Helen, a conventional middle-class wife and mother from Chatham who decided to divorce her husband Frank after he had an affair (with Sharon Duce), to study and to become self-sufficient after years of dependency.
Many male viewers (including several critics) thought Helen obstinate baggage. Did not her husband, played by Martin Shaw (pre-Professionals perm and with a droopy moustache), regret the affair and love her and the two young children?
Parents and neighbours advised her to swallow her pride and carry on as before, but Helen went on irritating them – but inspiring millions of women – looking realistically fed up and, later, turning down the proposal of a rich new man.
When the first modern feminist drama ended its Friday-night run, Alison Fiske should have been a star. She wasn’t. Martin Shaw – who’d played weak Frank – was.
But, then, Germaine Greer hadn’t said it would be easy.