If you have been watching “A Very British Scandal”, the BBC drama which concluded yesterday evening, you will know that Rinka is the name of a dog, a Great Dane shot dead in October 1975. According to the drama, and the John Preston book on which it is based, the gun was fired by Andrew Newton, who had been hired to kill Norman Scott, a former lover of Jeremy Thorpe MP.
For once, I have managed to watch each episode of an entire drama series within 24 hours of its original broadcast. This is a rare occurrence. Family life being what it is, I have not seen any of the episodes live. The children are still too young to watch post-watershed dramas, so they know nothing about Thorpe, Scott, Rinka or any of the other participants in the events portrayed. Last night, while BBC1 was broadcasting the concluding episode of “A Very British Scandal”, we were watching the final of “Britain’s Got Talent” on ITV, live from the Hammersmith Apollo. We were happy that “Lost Voice Guy” was the winner, and would have been just as happy if the runner-up (Robert White) had won instead. This is the first year we have watched all of the live semi-finals, and last night’s show stretched to over 150 minutes, taking up our whole evening. It has provided family viewing to rival “Strictly Come Dancing”.
When the children had gone off to bed I watched a recording of the last instalment of “A Very British Scandal” and enjoyed it as much the two previous ones. The whole series might have passed me by, but I was prompted to check out the opening episode on the iPlayer two weeks ago, on the day of Lucy Mangan’s excellent and enthusiastic review, which you can read here. She gives a far better summary than I can, and her mention of Rinka the dog is probably the first time I had encountered the name for 30 years.
It is also 30 years since “A Very British Coup” was first broadcast, another compelling three-part serialization with a running time under three hours. It played a big part in determining how I feel about TV dramas: 180 minutes is ideal. I had struggled with longer series (“The Singing Detective” in particular, all six hours of it) but this was just right for me. I have now discovered that it is available on All 4, Channel 4’s catch-up service. I wanted to take a quick look but the video requires me to “Download latest Flash Player”. Didn’t I do that in the last fortnight? If it had played correctly I might be watching it now, instead of finalizing this piece and heading to bed.
If “A Very British Scandal” has passed you by, you can catch episode 1 on the iPlayer here for another 14 days. The other two parts will be available for a week or two longer. You could watch them all in the course of an evening. It won’t take up much more of your time than the final of “Britain’s Got Talent”.