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A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire (ITV Drama, Susan Penhaligon)

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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 Sarah, 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.’

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There was a sequel the following year called Another Bouquet.

Cast: SUSAN PENHALIGON as Prue Manson/Sorenson; FRANK FINLAY as Peter Manson; JAMES AUBREY as Gavin Sorenson; DEBORAH GRANT as Sarah Francis; SHEILA ALLEN as Cassie Masson

Writer: Andrea Newman / Executive Producer: Rex Firkin / Producer and Director: Tony Wharmby

UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 7×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 9 January – 20 February 1976

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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