THE BROTHERS (1972)

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The Brothers

The Brothers was a compelling and hugely successful BBC drama series about boardroom strife and family conflict endured by three brothers. It was Dallas without the glamour and glitz, without ten gallon hats and with a lot more grit. It even had a resident 'baddie' who was voted the 'Most Hated Man in Britain' by readers of The Sun newspaper and it preceded the US drama by several years.

Boardroom dramas were nothing new on British television. The Plane Makers (and its successor The Power Game 1963 to 1969) focused on the power struggles between trade unions and the management as well as the political in-fighting in the boardroom. The Troubleshooters (titled Mogul for the first series 1965 to 1972) also concerned the internal politics within the Mogul organisation. Even earlier than that (in 1958) the BBC had produced Starr and Company, a soap opera set at an industrial manufacturer in the fictional town of Sullbridge. It clearly appealed to the producer of the series, Gerard Glaister, who went on to co-create The Brothers with N.J. Crisp., 14 years later.

When 70 year-old Robert Hammond dies it is fully expected that his eldest son, Edward, will take over the running of the family's successful haulage firm. After all, Edward has helped to build the company up to the success it now is. But his father had other ideas, and has left the company in equal shares to Edward, his two younger brothers, his wife and, as if to add insult to injury, an additional share to his secretary, Jennifer Kingsley, who was his long-time mistress and mother to his illegitimate love child. Hammond's wife Mary spent most of the series fighting Jennifer, who had slept with her husband for 20 years, before deciding she wanted to marry their eldest son.

The newly appointed Hammond Board sets to work. But it proves an unholy and uneasy alliance, as Edward is now determined he will be the majority shareholder and sets about persuading the others to sell. But Edward is outvoted on a number of key issues, not least of all a major financial outlay to accommodate a new deal. When a strike by docks workers spells potential disaster for the company they find themselves struggling to complete delivery commitments. Eventually, the company falls under the spell of the ruthless and ambitious City banker Paul Merroney (Colin Baker), who plans to drag the company into the 20th century and take the business into Europe. Originally, Baker was only going to appear in two episodes, but his character made such an impact that he was quickly cast as a major character. He became the man the public loved to hate as Colin Baker remembered in interview: "Paul Merroney was once voted the most hated man in Britain, when the series what at its height. And although that is a compliment in a way, I suppose, I got quite defensive about him....Even though he showed glimmers of humanity - with his story about his father, his relationships with Brian and Bill Riley, whom he admired - basically his default state was a cold fish."

In later episodes Merroney was pitted against the equally ambitious head of an aviation company played by Kate O'Mara. It was a rivalry that would continue even after The Brothers finished when Baker was cast as Doctor Who and O'Mara as an evil Time Lady called the Rani. But The Brothers, after seven series, ended very abruptly (in 1976) as Colin Baker explains: "Bill Sellars who was the producer in 1976, told us that he would be in touch "next year" to sort out the next series. But after that - it was tumbleweed. We never heard another word from anybody at the BBC." Gerard Glaister went on to produce another series for the BBC about a family business; Howards' Way.

Review: : Marc Saul September 2016

for Television Heaven