History Man, The (BBC-2 1981, Antony Sher, Isla Blair)



In fabulous drama serial The History Man Howard Kirk, a trendy left wing sociology university lecturer, has a complicated love and home life. Kirk is supremely manipulative and works up a real storm amongst the faculty over a proposed visit by an apparently racist lecturer, Professor Mangel (The History Man of the title).

He plays it all out though so that he doesn’t actually get his fingers dirty and it seems his main motivation for stirring up trouble is simply to watch the fall out.

Not only is Kirk, who is 34, married with a couple of kids, he is also sleeping with one of his students (young Felicity, who ends up pretty much stalking him) as well as very sexy colleague Flora Beniform. He is also desperate to get into bed with English lecturer Anne Petty and manufactures a dispute with one of her students (who is also one of his students) to try and get closer to her.

The History Man opens on 2 October 1972 and the first three episodes take place over the course of a couple of days whilst the final episode takes events to the end of term. It begins and ends with a party at the Kirk’s fantastic house (apparently they had claimed squatters rights some years before and been more or less given the place by the council!). Antony Sher is just superb as Kirk, a brilliant actor in his prime.

Incidentally Howard’s book that he is writing about lack of privacy seems surprisingly relevent today. Most of the uni scenes were filmed at the University of Lancaster.

Michael Hordern as Professor Marvin and Antony Sher as Howard.

The four episode titles are
1. October 2nd 1972
2. October 3rd 1972 (AM)
3. October 3rd 1972 (PM)
4. Gross Moral Turpitude

classic quote
“I don’t care what your friends say about you Howard, you’re a good guy, a radical’s radical”

production details
UK / BBC-2 / 4×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 4 – 25 January 1981

Writer: Christopher Hampton / Novel: Malcolm Bradbury / Original Music: George Fenton / Costumes: Sue Peck / Production Design: Gavin Davies / Producer: Michael Wearing / Director: Robert Knights

ANTONY SHER as Howard Kirk
ISLA BLAIR as Flora Beniform
LAURA DAVENPORT as Annie Callendar
PAUL BROOKE as Henry Beamish
MAGGIE STEED as Myra Beamish
MIRIAM MARGOLYES as Melissa Tordoroff
ELIZABETH PROUD as Moira Millikin
GRAHAM PADDEN as John McIntosh
JUDY LIEBERT as Jane McIntosh
MICHAEL HORDERN as Professor Marvin
BILL BUFFERY as Peter Madden
JULIA SWIFT as Beck Pott
PETER HUGO DALY as George Carmody
LLOYD PETERS as Michael Bennard
JULIET WALEY as Marjorie
STEVE PLYTAS as Professor Mangel
ARTHUR LUGO as Hashmi Sadeck

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