Tell me about an effective concept: a miniseries of three one-hour episodes that wraps up a true story, as fascinating as it is annoying, lord, without stretching the sauce or truncating the narrative.
Posted at 6:15 a.m.
Yeah, Dumas, a three-hour story, it’s called a movie, my super detractors will laugh at. Yes but no. Three-hour movies that have no slack don’t exist. On TV, deploying a plot over three hours without slowing down works divinely well.
It’s the case for A Very British Scandal from the Amazon Prime Video platform, a “mini” miniseries offered in French and English that focuses on the tumultuous – and 100% truthful – relationship between Captain Ian Campbell (Paul Bettany) and the future Duchess Margaret Sweeny (Claire Foy , seen in The Crown).
Toxic marital relationship, use of amphetamines, multiple adulteries, underwater royal treasure, dilapidated then restored castle in Scotland, plot of false paternity, robbed diaries and daring photos revealed, all these elements fed the British tabloids between 1947 and 1963 .
Before continuing, let’s sort out something confusing. Two series from the same producers bear an almost identical title. It is A Very English Scandal (season 1) and A Very British Scandal (season 2). The Tou.TV platform offers the first season of 2018 for free under the name ofA British scandal with Hugh Grant. Radio-Canada was unable to buy the rights to the second season of 2022 with Claire Foy, who only lodges on Amazon Prime Video.
Ah yes, and you don’t need to have seen the first chapter to watch the second. These two miniseries live independently of each other and have no connection between them, other than that they concern themselves with real aristocratic scandals which have rocked the United Kingdom.
So, A Very British Scandal, the second story. The brilliant Claire Foy portrays Margaret, a free, drooling and modern Londoner. Margaret’s wealthy industrial dad funds her princess lifestyle. Lively, selfish and sarcastic, Margaret loves social events, champagne and sex.
After a disappointing first marriage, Margaret falls in love with a married man, Ian (Paul Bettany), who comes from a modest, even poor family. The hook? Ian is about to inherit the title of Duke of Argyll, with a huge estate in Scotland, which seduces Margaret, just like the strong character of her future husband.
In the first few months, Margaret and Ian complement each other wonderfully, both in bed and in society. But two volcanic, intense, self-centered beings inevitably end up burning each other. Fueled by drugs, alcohol and violence (physical and psychological), the relationship between the Duke and Duchess is poisoned, while the fortune of Margaret, who pays for everything in the couple, melts like an ice cube in a glass of scotch.
In search of comfort, Margaret, who also has a cruel side, escapes into one-night stands, the details of which she notes in a red notebook, always placed on her bedside table. I say it again : A Very British Scandal is based on very real facts. Google at your own risk.
The miniseries culminates with Margaret and Ian’s very public divorce in the third episode, which is no spoilers. What comes to light in court, on the other hand, will make your hair stand on end. In 2022, a magistrate who would utter such retrograde and sexist words would go to the grinder of social networks. We are squarely in the slut shaming and pure misogyny.
We agree that Margaret has never been the “sorority” type with her girlfriends or the other women around her. Still, no one deserves to suffer such international humiliation for a naughty Polaroid, which served as a weapon of mass destruction.
It surprises me that a sumptuous and sulfurous series like A Very British Scandal did not earn any selections ahead of September’s Emmy awards gala. The list of finalists was unveiled on Tuesday and it brings together big guns like Succession (Crave/HBO), Squid Game (Netflix), Euphoria (Crave/HBO), Ted Lasso (AppleTV+), hacks (Crave/HBO), Only Murders in the Building (Disney+), The White Lotus (Crave/HBO) and dopesick (Disney+).
Surprise, Inventing Anna (Netflix) snuck into the front runners, as did the funny comedy Abbott Elementary (ABC/Disney+), a big favourite. The best drama series category is full of good shows like Yellowjackets (Craves), Stranger Things (Netflix), Severance (AppleTV+), Better Call Saul (Netflix) or ozark (Netflix).
The cream of American TV, like ours, is moving massively to pay platforms. Many of you grumble about this global trend, which encourages expensive multiple subscriptions, I know.
Unfortunately for our wallets, this digital migration will increase in the coming years. The future of television content goes through these online giants and no longer through traditional channels. And the youngest swear by this mode of consumption “on demand”.
As a consolation prize, tell yourself that an annual subscription to Disney+ or Netflix is the equivalent of two DVD boxes of 24 or of Sex and the City that we paid very dearly for in the good old days.