1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 0 (UK)
23 x 60 minute episodes
Capital City was really the drama series we had to have. So full of its time, it came drenched in Thatcherite trappings and explored the bright lights of the big city (As in The City, London, England).
The 13 part series from Euston Films presented the saga of Shane-Longman, an up and coming investment banking house in London.
Episodes mainly centred around the developing romance between dishy primaries desk trader Declan McConnochie (Douglas Hodge) and Michelle Hauptmann (Trevyn McDowell), a trader for Shane-Longman’s German branch based in England.
Capital City took viewers into the buzz of the corporate trading room, giving us an insight into the realities of insider trading and of money-fixated high fliers networking and closing deals in the City.
For all the soap opera packaging, this was television cynically and snobbishly predicated on the basis of giving the people a glimpse of the high octane £100K per annum world that was otherwise inaccessible.
At a time when the “yuppie” was being demonised in our culture, it was obvious that the likes of Declan, Hudson, Max, Leonard, Sirrka and Chas would fail to win the hearts of the nation.
As most 1980s drama became inextricably linked to the trends of the society it reflected, the very rationale for the programme amply demonstrates the state of utter uncertainty that stifled much television drama during that awkward transitional period from one decade to the next.
Like the BBC’s appalling Trainer, Capital City was inexplicably renewed for a further season and like Trainer, it was a tawdry throwback to a long-gone era, no more than a contrived irrelevance.
New characters were introduced for the second series, principally the steely, heartless bitch new Head Dealer, Sylvia Roux Tenge (Emily Bolton), the sort of Head Girl who used to strut around school with a dominatrix whip.
There was also now some external filming in the city of London (which meant we can get to see what a ghastly structure the Broadgate complex is).
It took programmes such as the blackly comic Making Out – who needs a phalanx of stripe-shirted tossers when you’ve got Margi Clarke ruling the roost? – and the sitcom Get Back (featuring Ray Winstone, Larry Lamb and a youthful Kate Winslet) to tentatively bring the realities of recession, redundancy and retrenchment to an early 1990s audience.
Indeed, seven years later on BBC2, a depiction of the hedonistic high-flying lifestyles of a bunch of ambitious 20-somethings was finally done right when we made the acquaintance of Anna, Miles, Milly, Egg and Warren and saw exactly what the denizens of Capital City lacked: a touch of basic humanity.
Capital City deserves recognition in a pantheon of underrepresented programming not because it is a laudable example of popular television but because of its political and pop-cultural literacy, because of its value as a historical document.
Its glossy production values offset by vacuous characters and storylines utterly bereft of any true intellectual, moral or dramatic substance, this was the ultimate distillation of life for the privileged few during the latter years of Thatcher‘s Britain, set in a London that swung like a corpse on the end of a rope.
Richard Le Parmentier
Hudson J Talbot
Sylvia Roux Tenge