1 9 8 6 (UK)
10 x 60 minute episodes
Granada spared no expense with their production of First Among Equals, an adaptation of a Jeffrey Archer novel which gave us a magnificent replica of the House of Commons – so realistic that visiting MP Joan Lester found herself bowing to the Speaker as she entered.
The drama revolved around four fictional MPs starting out in 1964. One of them would become Prime Minister: the principled Tory, the complete Conservative swine, the deeply dull Labour man or the Scottish socialist who seemed to have it made – so we knew his world would be the first to collapse.
There was additional intrigue when producer Mervyn Watson made two endings and ruled that only he and Granada’s managing director, David Plowright, would elect the Prime Minister in the final week.
In the end, it was the now not so dull Labour man Gould (Tom Wilkinson) rather than the decent Tory, Kerslake, who walked into Number 10.
Archer had picked Gould in the British version of his book, but Kerslake won in the American edition.
David Plowright had another hard decision to make too – whether to blow up the House of Commons. Their £200,000 set, complete with Leader of the Opposition’s office, smoking room, whip’s office, Members’ Lobby and corridor with statues had to go to make room for the sets of Lost Empires.
It would have gone up in flames had not the producers of Yorkshire Television’s parliamentary comedy The New Statesman heard about it at the ninth hour and sent up their lorries.