Play For Today: United Kingdom (BBC Drama, Colin Welland)

Incredibly powerful BBC drama United Kingdom (an entry in the Play For Today strand) takes us into a crisis in the North East when a local council decides to make a stand against ever more aggressive government spending cuts. The government initially send in a ministry “overlord” but as things get further out of hand and the councillors steal computer tapes to prevent cuts and rent rises being implemented Chief Constable James McBride (Colin Welland) takes matter into us own hands and organises a police intervention.

Lots of very naturalistic performances, almost feels semi improvised at times and has a documentary feel. Ricky Tomlinson as Dennis and Val McLane as Kath are excellent as the married couple undergoing a huge amount of strain and the whole thing certainly channels into what was going on in the UK under the early years of Thatcher’s government.

United Kingdom can be seen as something of a culmination of author Jim Allen’s work, this former miner always wrote work of a socialist nature most notably with The Lump (from 1967) and 1976’s Days of Hope.

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Classic Quote: “Listen girl, those people up there have effectively got the heel on the neck of local government”

Series: Play For Today / Season 12 Episode 7

Cast: COLIN WELLAND as Chief Constable James McBride; RICKY TOMLINSON as Dennis; VAL McLANE as Kath; BILL PATERSON as Tony Philbin; NORMA DAY as Nora; ANTHONY HEBRON as Antony; PETER KERRIGAN as Peter Connor; ROSEMARY MARTIN as Barbara Sullivan MP; RICHARD SANDS as Kevin; BOBBY HOOPER as Bobby; KEN WILLIAMS as Ron Thompson; ANTHONY BENSON as Arthur Rose; JOHN HARRIS as Alec; TONY SCOGGS as Frank Jepson; SPIKE RAWLINGS as Spike; JULIE FONTAYNE as Julie; GWEN DORAN as Gwen; CY BENSON as Cy; DES YOUNG as Des; ALAN J. BARTLEY as Council Driver; PAUL DONNER as Paul; MIKE MASON as Man With The News; MALCOLM J. WHITE as Unsympathetic Tenant; PETER COPLEY as Commissioner; DAVID BLAKE-KELLY as Home Secretary; DICK McCULLOCH as Acpo Chairman; HARRY HERRING as Keen; FRED PEARSON as Chief Executive; JOE GING as Borough Treasurer; DAVID GLYDER as Assistant Chief Constable; WALTER GEE as Chief Superintendant; MARTIN DALE as Chief Inspector; ART DAVIES as Police Sergeant 1; GEORGE GING as Police Sergeant 2; PAULA MASON as Police Woman; HUGH TURNER, BRYAN ST. JOHN as Detectives; JAMES MACDONALD as Old PC; BRENDAN HEALEY as Young PC; LEON MARTIN, FRANK MARVIN, TONY SHAW as Special Branch Men; PETER ROYAL, TERRY JOYCE as Security Men; KEN McKENZIE, EDDIE ANGEL, GEOFF BATT, LIEL EDWARDS, COLIN HEYWOOD as Reporters; JAN BREACH as Television Interviewer; JEFF MILBURN as Radio interviewer; OLIVE ELLIS as Mrs McBride; HELEN RUSSELL as Conservative Councillor; NICK BREEZE, DANNY BREEZE, WES BREEZE as Musicians

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Writer: Jim Allen / Researchers: Martin Kettle, Brian More, Bernard Simon, Stuart Weir / Costumes: Richard Winter / Production Design: Dick Coles / Producer: Kenith Trodd / Director: Roland Joffe

UK / BBC One (Play for Today) – Pennies From Heaven / 1×146 minute episode / Broadcast 8 December 1981 at 9.30pm

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.