A change is as good as a rest but for Mark Telford, there’s little sign of any rest as he changes the direction of his career. For many a Sunday night drama about banking might not sound that thrilling but this late 1970s series had hidden depths.
Sunday night on BBC1 has a tradition of including a drama series that isn’t too controversial and will ease the pain of the fact Monday is on its way. Telford’s Change fitted well into this category and boasted an excellent cast.
Peter Barkworth had a lengthy theatre CV, had appeared in movies such as Where Eagles Dare and had even made a highly recommended appearance in the Doctor Who adventure The Ice Warriors. He was on a hot streak coming into this series having won two Best Actor Awards in the space of four years for Crown Matrimonial in 1975 and for Professional Foul and The Country Park in 1978.
The idea of a series about a bank manager originated from Barkworth himself. It took a while to come to fruition though with the idea first mooted in 1968 after he’d been told by a commercial television executive that the subject matter wasn’t "interesting television". While working on The Country Game, with Brian Clark, the idea was resurrected and Telford’s Change was on its way to creation.
He plays Mark Telford, an international banker who decides it’s time for a major change in his career and becomes the manager of a local branch in Dover. Barkworth did a great deal of research for the part and discovered that most bank managers consider their job to be fun and it wasn’t totally uncommon for someone to make a drastic change in direction as Telford would in this series.
His wife, Laura, was played by another hugely successful actor, Hannah Gordon who’d excelled in Upstairs Downstairs. The series was written by Brian Clark who had also written The Country Park and was having a big year thanks to the success of the stage version of his play Whose Life is it Anyway?
Not everyone was keen on moving to Dover and Telford’s wife, Sylvia, stayed in London hoping to make it into showbusiness and had to cope with the growing attention of Tim Hart, played by Keith Barron.
The series continued to be set in several locations. Episode two saw Sylvia still trying to find work in London, while her former jet-setting husband headed off to Devon on a bankruptcy case. Back in Dover, he helps a business try to expand but he continually battles with himself over the decision he’s taken over his career and trying to rescue his marriage. Sylvia eventually ends up in bed with Tim and when Mark is offered a return to the International Division, it’s farewell to Dover.
The uncertainty over whether Telford would manage to cope with his new job, avoid the temptation of returning to his old one and saving his marriage proved to be a big hit with the viewers. Even the dreaded Mary Whitehouse said she enjoyed it. The problem was that the change of scenery for Telford doesn’t really change as far as his marriage is concerned. He still spends most of his time away from his wife and son and a return to his old job won’t help that situation.
The series ran for ten episodes and viewing figures reached as high as 10.9m. Despite that the BBC didn’t renew it. It neatly fits into the Sunday night tradition that would soon head south again for Howard’s Way.
Published on April 15th, 2019. Written by Steve Ashfield (2019) for Television Heaven.