When A Bouquet of Barbed Wire was first screened on ITV in 1976, back in the days before video recorders, pubs would empty as 9pm drew near and avid drama-watchers rushed to glue themselves to this televisual tale of marriage, infidelity, parent-child relationships and mid-life crises. Who would fall into bed with whom this week – and what would be the consequences?
The series broke new ground, departing from the safe, formulaic drama of the time to show a tangled web of middle-class lives and lusts as never before. It became the most talked-about series of the year, attracting a staggering 24 million viewers to its seven episodes. ‘Never in the field of TV drama has so much been done by so few to each other,’ said one TV critic describing the emotional and sexual contortions into which the members of the Manson family were plunged.
Bouquet starred Frank Finlay as wealthy publisher Peter Manson, who was sleeping with his secretary, played by Deborah Grant, while also displaying incestuous leanings towards his spoilt daughter Prue (Susan Penhaligon). Peter’s put-upon wife Cassie (Sheila Allen) found relief by jumping into bed with her violent-tempered American son-in-law Gavin (James Aubrey), after he had beaten up her pregnant daughter.
The series’ author, prolific novelist Andrea Newman, defended her work against voices of disapproval by saying ‘I read worse stories in the newspapers than I’ve written, and they’re fact.’
See also Another Bouquet.
UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 7×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 9 January – 20 February 1976
Writer: Andrea Newman / Executive Producer: Rex Firkin / Producer and Director: Tony Wharmby
SUSAN PENHALIGON asPrue Manson/Sorenson
FRANK FINLAY as Peter Manson
JAMES AUBREY as Gavin Sorenson
DEBORAH GRANT as Sarah Francis
SHEILA ALLEN as Cassie Masson