Popular drama series The Main Chance cemented John Stride’s position as one of the UK’s best actors. He plays lawyer David Main who is determined to make it to the top of his profession.
David doesn’t take on too many criminal cases because he finds them too messy but he is willing to stand up for the underdog. When the first season begins Main is asked to become a partner in the Leeds based firm of Castleton Solicitors run by the staid Henry Castleton and his daughter Margaret. The Castleton’s are a vital part of the series, both acting as something of a voice of reason and keeping Main somewhat grounded.
David’s personal life was a bit complicated too. He was married in the first season to Julia (played by Kate O’Mara who in her autobiography claimed that excessive TV Times coverage of her rather than Stride led to her not being in the second series – there could well be some truth in this, TV Times took the actress to Ireland for a shoot, featured her on the cover and for several weeks running featured her alone despite her role in the series being quite minimal), their marriage was already falling apart as the show opened and he divorced her after the first season. He was more than happy to let her have custody of their two kids too. This left the way open for plenty of affairs. Main became involved with his secretary Sarah Courtenay towards the end of the second season although she later married someone else and became Lady Radchester. She remained a part of the series for the third season though, adding a bit of glamour and giving David higher business circles to move in.
Season three saw Main getting involved with and later married to Hilary Nash, her off screen death at the start of season four has major repercussions for Main and his practice. He colludes with his investigator Clegg to get evidence to convict the drunk driver who killed Hilary but it backfires and David ends up being struck off.
He is forced to sell his practice and give up his share of the Leeds practice too, he is determined to clear his name though and much of the fourth and final season is spent with him trying to do so in between making large amounts of money acting as advisor to big business.
The move works massively well for the series as it frees up Main to play the field again (although he does end up getting emotionally attached to his new sexy secretary and former aupair Inge Lindstrom) and being struck off also gives David a new dynamism as he tries to get his old life back.
The Main Chance, for all it’s popularity, and it was deservedly very popular, had quite a disjointed run across its four seasons (the first of which was filmed in black and white). There was a two year gap between seasons two and three followed by a three year gap for the final batch of 13 episodes (season three was repeated in late 1974 in the run up to the fourth season airing in 1975).
Stride, one of the best actors working in British TV in the 1970’s, was brilliant as Main. Interestingly Glynn Edwards who plays Walter Clegg, Main’s chief investigator in season’s three and four turns up in Season Two’s seventh episode The Best Legal System in the World playing a Train driver whose daughter is involved in a relationship with another woman.
Margaret Ashcroft and Kate O’Mara would also go on to appear together in The Brothers and other prominent names to pop up included Leslie Sands, Simon Oates from Doomwatch, Bernard Kay, Diana Coupland, Bernard Hepton, Peter Jeffrey, Freddie Jones, Georgina Hale, Peter Bowles and Robin Ellis.
The series actually gained itself a spin off of sorts in the shape of 3 part drama Grady, made by Yorkshire in 1970 and based on a tough union man who had been seen in the first season episode The Professional.
“If I’d wanted to be loved I’d have been born a teddy bear”
UK / ITV Network – Yorkshire / 45×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 18 June 1969 – 18 July 1975
Creators: Edmund Ward, John Malcolm (only for the first two seasons and he is replaced in the credits as co-creator by John Batt – which just happens to be Malcolm’s real name) / Legal Advisor: John Malcolm / Producers: Peter Willes (season one and then executive producer), John Frankau
JOHN STRIDE as David Main
ANNA PALK as Sarah Courtnay (Later Lady Radchester) (Seasons 1-3)
MARGARET ASHCROFT as Margaret Castleton
JOHN WENTWORTH as Henry Castleton
JOHN ARNATT as Sidney Bulmer (Seasons 1-2)
GLYNN EDWARDS as Walter Clegg (Seasons 3-4)
KATE O’MARA as Julia Main (Season 1)
ESTELLE KOHLER as Hilary Nash (Season 3)
SEASON ONE 18 June – 23 July 1969
1. WHAT ABOUT JUSTICE? (18 Jun 1969)
2. BODY AND SOUL (25 Jun 1969)
3. THE PROFESSIONAL (2 Jul 1969)
4. LIAR’S DICE ( 9 Jul 1969)
5. THE PRIVILEGE OF JUSTICE (16 Jul 1969)
6. WITH ALL MY WORLDLY GOODS (23 Jul 1969)
SEASON TWO 14 September – 7 December 1970
1. A TIME TO LOVE, A TIME TO DIE (14 Sep 1970)
2. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (21 Sep 1970)
3. FIRST YOU EAT: LATER WE RUIN YOU (28 Sep 1970)
4. A LITTLE BLACK AND WHITE LIE (5 Oct 1970)
5. THE WALLS OF JERICHO (12 Oct 1970)
6. A VIEW FROM THE CHAIR (19 Oct 1970)
7. THE BEST LEGAL SYSTEM IN THE WORLD (26 Oct 1970)
8. THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE (2 Nov 1970)
9. A MAN I KNOW TO BE INNOCENT…(9 Nov 1970)
10. A VISION OF THE FUTURE (16 Nov 1970)
11. THE LADY WHO WENT TOO FAR (23 Nov 1970)
12. SETTLEMENT DAY (30 Nov 1970)
13. PRIVATE ARMIES (7 Dec 1970)
SEASON THREE 7 June – 30 August 1972
1. THE KILLING GROUND (7 Jun 1972)
2. LOVE’S OLD SWEET SONG (14 Jun 1972)
3. ACTING FOR SELF (21 Jun 1972)
4. NOT IN TODAY’S ARMY (28 Jun 1972)
5. WIDOW’S MITE (5 Jul 1972)
6. THE NEXT GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (12 Jul 1972)
7. WHERE DID I LEAVE MY SHINING ARMOUR? (19 Jul 1972)
8. COPPER BOTTOMED CERT (26 Jul 1972)
9. DOLL ON A WALL (2 Aug 1972)
10. CHOICE OF JUNGLES (9 Aug 1972)
11. FIT-UP (16 Aug 1972)
12. ONE FOR THE HOUSE (23 Aug 1972)
13. DEAR SIR, UNLESS (30 Aug 1972)
SEASON FOUR 18 April – 18 July 1975
1. PROCESS (18 Apr 1975)
2. WORLD OF SILENCE (25 Apr 1975)
3. RULE OF LAW (2 May 1975)
4. PAYMENT BY RESULT (9 May 1975)
5. SURVIVAL (16 May 1975)
6. NO NAMES (23 May 1975)
7. IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE (30 May 1975)
8. KILLING (6 Jun 1975)
9. BY THE BOOK (20 Jun 1975)
10. WHEN THERE’S NO LAW (27 Jun 1975)
11. YEAR OF THE TIGER (4 Jul 1975)
12. WE’RE THE BOSSES NOW (11 Jul 1975)
13. CORONER’S VERDICT (18 Jul 1975)