BBC Radio 4, 4-19 March 2010
The Glittering Prizes was an award-winning BBC drama broadcast
in 1976, following the lives of a group of Cambridge students from 1953 onwards, ending in the 1970s. The series was first
broadcast on television, then adapted for radio. A sequel - Fame and Fortune - appeared on Radio
4. Final Demands - a six-play sequence broadcast over three weeks - completed the trilogy, chronicling
English social life and public and private values in the last decade of the twentieth century.
The protagonist Adam Morris (Tom Conti) is an Oscar-winning screenwriter living a
prosperous life in Hampstead. In the first play "A Call from the Coast," we followed him to America where he attended the
funeral of an ex-Cambridge colleague Bill, and encountered his daughter Rachel (Fiona Montgomery), who happened to be Bill's
last lover. While staying in Los Angeles Adam had a fling with a hooker, and discovered to his cost that all Americans do
not find the British particularly attractive. The second play "The Lesson of the Master" saw Adam returning to Britain, putting
money in a new magazine Options, and visiting one of his old mentors Sheridan (Julian Glover), who was now confined
to a care home. The third play "Point Counterpoint" saw Adam becoming more and more disenchanted with his literary acquaintances,
most of whom wouldn't know sincerity if it came and slapped them in the face. Their superficialities were summed up by Samuel
Marcus Cohen (Alistair McGowan), a media celebrity with everything and nothing to say on most subjects. The fourth play "...And
A Happy New Year" was obviously intended ironically, as Adam discovered late in life that he was incapable of communicating
with members of his own family. The fifth play "Black and White" saw Adam being interrogated on a charge of racism, as he responded
to an alleged attack in a London street by Idun (Kobina Holbrook Smth) by calling Idun a derogatory name. The series
concluded with "The Distinguished Thing," as Adam went on holiday to France, suffered a slight tumour behind the eyes - which
necessitated a life-threatening operation - and eventually dedicated himself to a noble cause by offering one of his kidneys
to his brother Derek (Adrian Lucas), who had been smashed up in a car accident.
Final Demands was obviously conceived as a 'state-of-the-nation' drama,
in which author Raphael commented on issues such as media celebrity, the blame culture, the decline of communal values and
the growth of individualism, the future of Jewishness in Britain, the fear of being charged with racism by an increasingly
hostile police service, even while trying to defend oneself, and the necessity to rediscover (or perhaps reconnect) with one's
humanity to ensure humanity's continued survival. However I never really actually cared for Adam, despite his struggles; he
just seemed to me a representative of the Hampstead literati who live most of their lives in a social goldfish bowl,
and who are unpleasantly surprised when they are exposed to other worlds outside their limited social milieu. Perhaps it was
Conti's voice, which sometimes has rather an unpleasant nasal twang, which contributed to this impression. Whatever the reason,
I felt that he deserved everything he got - especially when charged with racism. The final play "The Distinguished Thing"
was nothing more than a cop-out; on the evidence of the previous five episodes, Adam would have thought more than once before
deciding whether or not to donate a kidney. The director was Pete Atkin.