The Informer

The Informer

1966 - United Kingdom

Ian Hendry is disbarred barrister Alex Lambert, unable to practise law anymore, he must find a new way to make a living. The one asset he can put to good use is his connections on both sides of the law, either through defending criminals or helping the police to bring them to justice. So, using the contacts he has made after years of being a legal practitioner he decides to put those assets to good use – by becoming an informant.

The Informer 1966 tv series

This tense, pithy thriller lasted for two seasons and followed Lambert as he trod the precarious path between both sides of the law whilst keeping his wife (Heather Sears - Room at the Top) ignorant of his true profession, posing instead as a business consultant. This wasn't the only secret he kept from her -as he was also having an affair with the girlfriend (Jean Marsh - Upstairs Downstairs, Doctor Who) of an unsuccessfully defended client, (whose case led to his disbarment). His one contact with the police was through DS Piper (Neil Hallett - The Adventures of Ben Gunn, The New Avengers, Follyfoot).

The Informer 1966 tv series

Executive producer of The Informer was Stella Richman who had started acting in the 1950s appearing in the BBC soap opera The Grove Family and the science-fiction series The Quatermass Experiment before moving behind the cameras. The Informer was her first gig in this role, and she went on to produce The Ronnie Barker Playhouse, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, Clayhanger and Just William. “I didn’t realise what a fascinating subject informing was until we started researching for the programme”, Richman told the TV Times in 1966.

The Informer 1966 tv series

“As a programme, it’s an entirely new approach to crime, with the police not prominent. I believe we have some very gripping stories. Each one shows the personal conflicts thrown up by Alex Lambert’s unusual way of life.”

The series was created by Geoffrey Bellman and John Witney, and among the directors were Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Budgie, The Protectors, Brideshead Revisited) and Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner, The Gathering Storm)

Of the 21 episodes made (8 in season 1 and 13 in season 2) Alfred Shaughnessy presided as script editor 12 before going on to be the chief writer and script editor of Upstairs Downstairs. Unfortunately, of those 21 episodes on 2 have survived in the archives.

Guest stars who appeared over the two seasons of The Informer included Tony Selby, Peter Vaughan, Peter Bowles, Marianne Stone, David Kelly, George Cole, Trevor Bannister, Nerys Hughes, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Peter Butterworth, Jack Hedley, Justine Lord, Nicholas Courtney, Garfield Morgan and Bob Monkhouse.

The Informer 1966 tv series

Critically, the first series received very missed reviews.

The Belfast Telegraph thought that The Informer 'looks as if it might have possibilities' and noted that 'This is Hendry's third appearance in a television series. A few years ago he started off as the "Police Doctor" (sic – the series was actually called Police Surgeon) and was one of the original "Avengers" before that series turned from revenge to burlesque.' The reviewer concluded, "My only fear about "The Informer" is that it might turn out to be a kind of British "Fugitive." Once or twice I thought I recognised that David Jansen-type agitated twitch in Mr Hendry's haunted expression.'

The Informer 1966 tv series

The Liverpool Echo found the series deserving of more praise. 'I raise a respectful hat to ITV for managing in their latest thriller series to make an attractive character out of somebody who is ostensibly one of the least appealing of people: "The Informer."

True, with a man of Ian Hendry's charm in the role, they were halfway there for a start, but they still had to overcome considerable resistance from a society which makes no bones about its attitude to the informer giving him (the) adjective "common."

The Informer 1966 tv series

Usually despised by both police and crooks and treated with open contempt on the rare occasions when he appears in court, this universally loathed gentleman was rehabilitated by ITV by the simple device of giving him some singularly unpleasant people to grass upon and by revealing him as a man of principle unwilling to betray the underling who unwittingly gives him information.

By making the crooks drug traffickers the drama effectively shifted our opinion towards the informer.'

The Informer 1966 tv series

Meanwhile, The Stage and Television Today found The Informer to be guilty of reproducing the same puerile programming that Rediffusion Television had offered over and over again in recent years. 'All too often their well-known programmes have been known for the wrong reasons, No Hiding Place, for example, for its longevity, and Riviera Police and The Rat Catchers for being unbelievably bad. One would think that Rediffusion would have learned from their mistakes and will never produce anything so bad again but the poor first episode of their new series, The Informer, raises doubts about this.'

The Informer 1966 tv series

Rediffusion, however, took an entirely different view about The Informer and Ian Hendry's performance. at their annual Golden Star award in November 1965, Hendry was rewarded a £1,000 prize as outstanding actor for The Informer "for the regular high standard of his performance."

The programme's debut featured either first, second or third in the different ITV regions and across the network as a whole it finished first, just beating Coronation Street.

Published on December 12th, 2022. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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