1 9 9 1 (UK)
5 x 50 minute episodes
Debuting on Wednesday 25 September 1991, this five-part BBC2 comedy-drama was based on Ann Oakley’s raunchy best-seller and told of two married work colleagues who embark on a perilous ten-year affair.
It’s the dawn of the 1980s, and middle-class 32-year-old Charity Walton (Harriet Walter) is content with her stockbroker husband, James (Patrick Drury), four children, and a promising academic career in Sociology until dashing Professor Mark Carleton (Bill Nighy) joins the university as her new boss.
Mark is also married but confesses to Charity that he has affairs and tells her they will soon make love. And so they do – frantically.
Meanwhile, Charity’s husband, James, begins an affair with his secretary, Shelley (Victoria Scarborough).
Their marriages break up, and the couple’s stormy relationship goes through many phases throughout the decade. All the while, Charity also supports her best friend Sally (Amanda Redman) through IVF fertility treatment with her husband Eric (Ian Redford).
Mel Martin co-starred as Mark’s long-suffering wife, Jane, with Charlotte Cornwell as Margaret Lacey, a radical feminist lecturer.
The series earned much publicity as the most explicitly sexy British series to date, with scenes in which Charity and Mark were seen naked, simulating oral sex, and making love in an alleyway and a graveyard. The English tabloids loved it, and the broadsheets gave the show a big thumbs down.
But from 4.6 million viewers for the first episode, the audience leapt to 5.4 million for episode two and more than six million by week three.
Professor Mark Carleton
Dr Ivan Swinhoe