An American aircraft is destroyed by a new weapon, nicknamed ‘the Ghost Plane’. The Champions follow a winding trail that eventually leads them to a Cambridge scientist called Dr John Newman (Andrew Keir). After the British declined to fund his high speed plane he sold it to the highest bidders – the Chinese.
Paul Grist, who would play an American several times during his career (he’d later pop up as the super cool secret agent Bill Filer in the Doctor Who story The Claws of Axos) appears in the pre-credits sequence as the pilot downed by the Ghost Plane.
Hardened Doctor Who watchers will also instantly recognise John Brandon (who was the Sergeant in The Tenth Planet). Brandon was actually an American, although whenever you see an American character on British television during the sixties or seventies you do tend to believe that it must be a British actor putting on a voice ….
The post credits superpower demonstration sees Craig running at top speed to stop a runaway van careering into a group of children. Watching this, it’s easy to understand why Dennis Spooner believed that The Six Million Dollar Man had ripped off his format.
The story then moves to the Alps, where Richard and Sharron are happily waiting to follow a link in the trail. There are several very unconvincing back projection shots which do their best to convince us that our two heroes are actually on location and not stuck in the studio.
Lurking about the Alps and elsewhere is Hilary Tindall (as Vanessa). Tindall’s an actress who’s always worth watching – if you haven’t got it, then my tip for the day is The Brothers boxset. She’s wonderful as the man-eating Ann Hammond.
Meanwhile Craig is back at base, searching for clues. Hmm, the first newspaper he stumbles across has a banner headline about Dr Newman’s abandoned plane design. I get the feeling that today’s episode isn’t going to be the tightest plotted one we’ve ever seen.
We later learn that Vanessa is Dr Newman’s girlfriend. Both seen shocked to learn that the plane is now being produced by an unfriendly power, but we already know that Vanessa is a wrong ‘un (and it’s not long before Newman also shows his true colours).
Andrew Keir does his best, but Newman is a very lightly sketched character. He’s a familiar enough type (a disgruntled genius selling his invention to the highest bidders) but we never really learn why or see any hesitation from him concerning the possible consequences of his actions.
If I’ve sometimes raised an eyebrow about the way that Sharron tends to get sidelined when it comes to the rough stuff, then it’s nice to see her tailing Vanessa solo. Although this is slightly tempered by the way Newman captures her with ridiculous ease. Possibly she needs to go back to secret agent school.
She’s now in a tight spot – locked in a freezer with only a limited time left. Luckily she has a link with Richard who has a link with Craig. But since Craig was nearest, why didn’t she contact him directly?
I love the moment when Sharron (after being rescued by Craig) gives Richard a big hug when he arrives. She tells him this is purely her way of trying to get warm again, as Craig only gave her his coat! I find it difficult to believe that Craig wouldn’t have given her a hug if she’d asked him nicely.
It’s interesting the way that The Champions always favoured the Chinese over the Russians as top bogeymen. Possibly there was something of a détente in the late sixties or maybe the series was just attempting to future proof by selecting a different adversary.
The Ghost Planeis assembled with the usual efficiency, but the story doesn’t have a great deal of depth. It feels rather Bondian in places (the scenes set in the Alps look nice, even though they could have easily taken place in London). It’s a disappointment that Andrew Keir was somewhat wasted, so I’ll give this one a score of three and a half out of five.
Within the first few minutes of the series seven opener – To Honour and Obey – it’s plain that change is in the air. First we have a new title sequence which acknowledges that Hammond Transport is now about more than lorries (shots of swooping aircraft makes that plain).
But even more startling is the fact that we’re presented with the sight of Paul Merroney (Colin Baker) having a shave. All of the main characters (with the exception of Paul) have previously had their private lives investigated in exhaustive (and some might say exhausting) detail. Up until now Paul’s has been exempt from this – indeed the others have unkindly referred to him as a robot on more than one occasion, suggesting that he doesn’t have a private life at all.
Seeing Paul Merroney in any other setting than a purely business one is something of a jolt, but since this episode is concerned with his wedding I guess we’re going to have to get used to it. Brian (Richard Easton) is his best man, which rather implies that poor Paul is somewhat lacking in friends. Although his bride-to-be April (Liza Goddard) might make up for that. Or maybe not, let’s wait to see how their marriage plays out ….
Given Brian’s previous problems with the bottle, it’s a little strange that he got drunk at Paul’s stag party (a pity we didn’t see it, I’m sure it would have been a hoot – no doubt Paul was stuck in the corner, sipping a tomato juice). Paul then discusses his father (in the first five minutes we learn more about Paul the man than we had in the last two and a bit series).
We’re quickly introduced to members of April’s family. Her father, Lord Winter (Anthony Nicholls), has little time for his son-in-law-to-be and April’s brother, Simon (Terence Frisby), shares his disdain – although since Simon and Paul are involved in a power-struggle at the bank, at least their conflict is professional rather than personal (Lord Winter just considers him to be a dull fellow).
Brian’s children have been conspicuous by their absence for most of the series to date. Even when he and his former wife, Ann, were together we never saw much of them. So when Brian’s daughter Carol (Debbie Farrington) suddenly turns up, it’s a bit of a jolt. Mind you, that’s nothing compared to the shock when Ann (Hilary Tindall) also reappears ….
I’ve missed Ann, so it’s lovely to see her again – even if it’s only a fleeting visit. With Brian now entering a tentative relationship with Jane Maxwell (Kate O’Mara), Ann’s presence certainly helps to shake up the status quo, although Carol is the key figure here – seemingly undecided about whether to live with her mother or father.
Carol’s now a new-age hippy chick but Ann’s still the same old Ann. They both bow out in episode four, The Female of the Species, with Carol rather bamboozling Brian before she goes. And before Ann leaves she has the chance to confront Jane (Hilary Tindall and Kate O’Mara – an implacable force meeting an immovable object).
Happy marriages are something of a rarity in The Brothers. This series Ted (Patrick O’Connell) and Jenny (Jennifer Wilson) are the first to suffer a few bumps in the matrimonial road. Although they’ve always seemed well-suited, it should be remembered that as soon as they tied the knot Jenny became incredibly bossy (her ill-fated desire for a child was just one of the times when Ted – a hard-case in business but a teddy-bear at home – gave way).
This year Ted’s showing signs of mellowing on the business front. Spending time away on a business course helped him to finally release that Paul Merroney wasn’t quite the villain he always believed him to be (something the viewers twigged some time back). When he returns home, Jenny’s off to visit her daughter, Barbara, in Canada (and more than a little irritated that Ted’s changed his mind about joining her). Barbara (Julia Goodman) is another familiar face from the past to make a return this year (her marriage – surprise, surprise – has hit something of a rough patch).
A little extra spice is added to Ted and Jenny’s relationship after April, at a loose end during one of Paul’s numerous foreign trips, offers to cook Ted dinner. There’s no strings attached – it’s just a friendly offer from April who’s concerned that Ted will waste away if he has to fend for himself – but the reactions of their respective spouses are quite instructive. Paul’s coolly amused (his long-standing disdain of Ted still stands) whilst Jenny doesn’t say a great deal (although it clearly rankles, as we’ll see during the next few episodes).
Of course it was Paul who mischievously told Jenny that her husband and his wife had enjoyed a meal together rather than the hapless Ted, who no doubt would have much preferred to have kept quiet. This leads April to liken Paul to one of the Borgias – which he takes as a rich compliment!
Regular viewers will probably be expecting several long-running plot-threads to rear their heads one last time. And you won’t be disappointed as yet again Mary’s (Jean Anderson) health takes a turn for the worse, leaving the brothers to play nursemaid, although neither Brian or David (Robin Chadwick) are falling over themselves to volunteer. The sight of Brian and David tossing a coin (Brian lost, so he had to stay at home with her) is a nice comedy moment.
The saga of Gwen Riley’s (Margaret Ashcroft) new house also continues to rumble away – every time she seems to be on the verge of moving, something happens to prevent her (this time she’s been gazumped). Once again, Ashcroft (and Derek Benfield as Bill Riley) impress as the one couple who somehow manage to juggle their work and private lives without resorting to taking lumps out of each other. Ashcroft gets to flex her acting muscles a little more towards the end of the series after Bill and Gwen’s son is involved in a motorbike accident.
Later series of The Brothers tended to be shared out amongst a pool of writers who would then pen a block of consecutive episodes. For the seventh and final series this was split as follows – Ray Jenkins (episodes one to three), Brian Finch (episodes four, five and nine to twelve), Elaine Morgan (episodes six to eight) and N.J. Crisp (episodes thirteen to sixteen).
Elaine Morgan’s three scripts – Arrivals and Departures, The Distaff Side and Cross Currents – are of particular interest. Although this was her only contribution to The Brothers, her extensive career spanned the mid fifties to the late eighties with many notable credits. The Life and Times of David Lloyd George is an obvious career highlight, with top-quality literary adaptations (including The Diary of Anne Frank, Testament of Youth and How Green Was My Valley, amongst others) also featuring heavily on her CV.
Christine Absalom appears in Morgan’s three episodes as temporary secretary Judy Vickery. It’s fair to say that she and Paul don’t hit it off – possibly it’s her toy Snoopy (a good-luck mascot, she tells him) or maybe it’s because she appears to be slightly flustered (although she assures him that once she settles down she’ll be fine). As an outsider, Judy allows us to see the regulars through a fresh pair of eyes – especially the martinet Paul Merroney (the way she mispronounces his name to begin with is a lovely comedy touch).
Paul, enroute to Istanbul, calls April from the airport. She has bad news for a him (a family bereavement) and is appalled when he doesn’t cancel his flight and return home This is a key moment, as although Paul shows a spasm of pain at the news, business comes first. It’s an attitude which April finds incomprehensible and serves to sow the first seed of disharmony between them.
The unexpected arrival of Paul’s mother in The Distaff Side throws the Hammonds into a tizzy. With Paul still away and April uncontactable, Ted and Brian attempt to play pass the parcel with her. Luckily, Mrs Merroney (Norah Fulton), a plain-speaking Geordie, takes up Gwen’s offer of a bed for the night (much to Brian’s obvious relief!)
Mrs Merroney’s conversations, first with Gwen and Bill and then later with April, help to shed considerable light on Paul’s character. A sickly, bookish child, he found himself teased by the local children – therefore his drive to succeed in business was partly borne out of a desire to prove his parochial home-town rivals wrong. These are further strong scenes from Elaine Morgan.
Elsewhere, there’s a nice spark of jealously directed towards Jane by Jenny. Jane’s arrival in series five generated a certain amount of friction amongst all the members of the Hammonds board, although it was rather downplayed the following year. Quite why Jenny should be so set against the possibility of Jane becoming a Hammond (after all, that’s precisely what she did by marrying Ted) is a bit of a mystery but it helps to give Jenny a little more to work with on the character front.
Jenny’s paranoia keeps on bubbling away (she’s convinced that everybody is plotting against her). The best moment comes when she confides to Mary that Brian and David are locked in a bizarre love triange with Jane! That’s somewhat far from the truth – since Brian’s long-relationship with Jane has been platonic, David sees nothing wrong in inviting her out for a couple of meals.
The result of Jenny’s rash comment puts Mary on the warpath. She attempts to rope Ted in, but he’s less than keen to get involved – although their conversation sets up a pulsating later scene which sees Ted accuses Jenny of spewing posion. With their marriage already a little rocky, this simply adds to the pressure. Jenny has the last word as she cruelly, but maybe accurately, labels the Hammond brothers as “a lush, a failure and a has-been!” Wonderful stuff.
Everything then kicks off in typical Brothers style as Mary confronts Jane, Brian confronts David and David, in a huff, packs his bags and leaves home.
Episode ten – Celebration – is ironically titled, as Jane receives the bad news that one of her new C41s has disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic, Jenny receives a summons for dangerous driving whilst Paul and April’s marriage seems to have hit a brick wall.
Possibly this was art imitating life, as Colin Baker and Liza Goddard had married for real shortly after Paul and April tied the knot in the series. Baker would later acknowledge that their union was probably a mistake as it sadly didn’t last very long.
April is a rather passive character to begin with – content to wait at home for her husband to return from the office (although capable of becoming annoyed when he’s late). April bemoans the fact that their luxury flat has become a gilded cage for her, but she seems unable or unwilling to do anything to rectify the situation, such as finding a job. Given that the role isn’t terribly interesting for large stretches, it’s lucky that Liza Goddard was on hand to breathe a little life into her. Goddard does icy detachment better than anybody and some of her later scenes suggest that April could have developed into quite the bitch had the show gone to an eighth series.
Paul Merroney’s latest scheme is to expand into the Middle East. From a modern perspective, setting up bases in places such as Baghdad and Kuwait seems to be asking for trouble, but it’s true that it was a different time back then. Only Brian opposes the plan, whilst the others see a chance to make a handsome profit (although the risk factor is great).
Whilst the cast were confidently expecting an eighth series, I wonder if the return of co-creator N.J. Crisp to write the last four episodes was something of a sign? Crisp had only penned a handful of episodes during the previous couple of runs, so it could be that he had an inkling the series was reaching the end and wanted to be the one to conclude it.
Whilst a continuing drama can never come to a compete stop, there’s a sense that The Brothers was reaching a natural conclusion. We’ve seen over the years how Hammond Transport had changed from a privately owned company to a publicly owned one, but the Middle East scheme serves as the catalyst to finally wrest control away from the Hammond family (via a new share option which will raise much needed capital but will also serve to dilute their majority share-holdings).
But various questions remain unanswered as the credits rolled for the final time. How would Paul and April’s wobbly marriage have resolved itself? Most intriguingly, would Paul’s Middle Eastern escapade have been a disaster? If so, then he might have been eased out and maybe the Hammonds would have attempted to regain control of the company.
Although there were plenty of options for future storylines it wasn’t to be, so The Brothers came to an end on the 19th of December 1976 with The Christmas Party. Final treats include Brian’s quite astonishing moves on the dance floor and Ted’s firm rejoinder after Paul suggests that Hammond Transport Services Ltd is a rather old-fashioned name. Surely something like Worldwide Transport Services would be better?
Another strong collection of episodes, this seventh and final series of The Brothers is just as addictive as the previous runs. It’s easy to why it captivated a generation back in the 1970’s and forty years on it’s still as entertaining. If you’ve been collecting the DVDs then you’ll know how good the show is, if not then I’d strongly recommend picking up series one and making your way through a classic slice of seventies drama from there.
The Brothers – Series Seven is released by Simply Media on the 10th of July 2017. RRP £29.99. It can be ordered directly from Simply here.
The story so far. Following the death of Robert Hammond, control of his thriving haulage firm was split four ways – equal shares were distributed to his three sons – Ted, Brian and David – whilst the fourth equal share went to his mistress Jenny Kingsley.
With no-one in overall control, there’s a constant power-struggle as elder son Ted (currently managing director) finds himself under attack from his two brothers, both convinced they could run the company better than him. And the trauma in the boardroom is matched by equal strife in their respective bedrooms.
We’ve previously seen that David’s (Robin Chadwick) recent marriage to the lovely, if rather doormat-like Jill (Gabrielle Drake), has had a few wobbles, mainly because his roving eye was elsewhere. He hadn’t actually been unfaithful, but Jill’s suspicions created a definite rift which they attempt to heal during this run of episodes.
Middle son Brian (Richard Easton) suffered even more spectacular marriage problems during the third series, although he remained blissfully unaware. His bored wife Ann (a wonderful performance by Hilary Tindall) found solace in the arms of smooth advertising type Nicholas Fox whilst chugging down far too many sleeping pills and drinking heavily. Her unhappiness at feeling trapped in a loveless marriage culminated in an overdose, although she appears to be quite her old self again now, even to the extent of restablishing contact with Nicholas.
Elder son Ted (Patrick O’Connell) doesn’t have any complaints on the marriage front, but that’s only because he’s single. He has his eye on someone though – Jenny Kingsley (Jennifer Wilson). His desire to wed his father’s mistress has been a running thread for a while, although Ted’s mother, the powerful matriarch Mary (Jean Anderson), strongly disapproves. This might have been one of the reasons why Mary keeled over at the end of series three with a heart attack.
So as series four begins, all three brothers face challenges in their personal lives whilst the business of running Hammonds also continues to cause them tremendous strife. And waiting in the wings is ambitious merchant banker Paul Merroney (Colin Baker), a man who always has his own agenda …..
The series four opener, Emergency sees Mary seriously ill in hosptal. She was discovered (off-screen) by Ted and Jenny who had returned from a brief holiday with life-changing news – Ted had proposed and Jenny accepted. But their happiness quickly evaporates as he blames himself for leaving his mother on her own.
We then see a nice visual signifier of the bond between mother and son. Whilst Ted goes to the hospital to await further news, Jenny stays behind to contact Brian and David as the camera lingers on a framed portrait of Mary and Ted. It’s a clever, unspoken touch which forshadows the dominance Mary will exert over her elder son.
When Mary gets better she has no compunction in telling Ted that he can’t marry Jenny. He might be a hard-headed businessman but he always seems to come off second best with his mother. And this is enough to convince Jenny that marriage to Ted would be impossible.
Business matters take centre-stage again with episode two, Secret Meetings, as Brian and David plan to offer merchant banker Martin Farrell (Murray Hayne) a seat on the board – the first step in their plan to make Hammonds a public company. Of course they’ve yet to mention this to Ted, so sparks inevitably fly when they do. Having said this, it’s surprising that Ted accepts their plan meekly, but he’s got an idea up his sleeve – if Bill Riley also joined the board then (provided he always votes Ted’s way) the status quo would remain. This is classic Brothers, featuring plot and counterplot.
If David has always irritated me somewhat, then Brian is a much more sympathetic character, even if it’s impossible not to feel a little frustrated by the way he remained oblivious to Ann’s lengthy relationship with Nicholas Fox (Jonathan Newth). But even Brian’s blindness could only continue for so long without it seeming totally unbelievable, and when he finally twigs it’s the cue for high drama. His first reaction, of course, is to reach for a drink (heavy alcohol consumption, along with an equally herculean nicotine intake, is something of a feature of the series).
Brian doesn’t confront Ann straight away, which enables him to calmly twist the knife and make her feel even more guilty than she already is. This is a good move – since you know the showdown will happen eventually, making us wait a little simply heightens the expectation. But Brian’s not backward in letting Ann know exactly what he thinks of her when the truth does emerge. “Your whole world begins and ends with yourself. You’re shallow, you’re superficial and utterly self-centered. Nothing matters to you but self, self, self!”
Ann doesn’t take this lying down. “You are a predictable bore, Brian. You don’t want a wife, you want a second mother. Somebody to cook and clean for you, and tuck you in and say, ‘there, there’ whenever you’re not feeling very well.” Both Richard Easton and Hilary Tindall are firing on all cylinders throughout (the end of episode five – Partings – as Brian knocks a shocked Ann to the floor is one of a number of stand-out moments). If Brian, following his separation from Ann, becomes something of a tortured figure then so does Ann herself. It slowly dawns on her that Nicholas Fox (a serial seducer) has no interest in a long-term relationship ….
David decides to become a racing driver (!) which means that Jill has to wait anxiously on the sidelines, hoping that he won’t be hurt. Frankly, this isn’t much of a role for Gabrielle Drake (compare and contrast to the plotlines dished out to Hilary Tindall) so it’s no surprise that she decided not to return for the fifth series.
Drake might also have been a little miffed that Jill didn’t turn up until the fourth episode and when she does finally make her first appearance it’s only to be once again verbally smacked down by David (he’s less than impressed with her anniversary gift to him – a penthouse flat – complaining that he doesn’t want to be a kept man). He eventually accepts it, but does so with his usual brand of charmless ill-grace.
The on/off relationship between Ted and Jenny allows Martin Farrell to step in (much to Ted’s extreme annoyance) whilst Bill struggles with the responsibilities of having a seat on the board. He’s always been proud to have the respect of the men, will this change now he’s one of the executives?
Brian’s run of bad luck continues in Saturday, but the later part of series four focuses on company traumas. The decision to make Hammonds a public company offers up a new range of storytelling possibilities. Until now, boardroom squabbles have largely been confined between the three brothers, but now that anyone is free to buy shares everything changes.
And this is partly where Paul Merroney comes in. He’s introduced in the fifth episode as a colleague of Farrell’s, brought in to advise how Hammonds should go public and although his screentime throughout series four is quite limited, he’ll become more central in the years to come. But Colin Baker, in his first regular television role, certainly makes the most of the material he’s given.
The wonderful Richard Hurndall guests in Bad Mistake as Clifton, an influential investment manager crucial to Hammonds’ future. Ted’s blunt style leaves Clifton less than impressed, giving Hurndall a chance to demonstrate his familiar icy, amused detachment. This episode also marks the point where Merroney starts to have an influence on company policy, much to Ted’s disgust.
The series finale, the aptly named The Crucial Vote, sees Ted struggling to keep the board united as the infighting intensifies. There’s no doubt that there will be many more twists and turns to come in the battle for Hammonds, which bodes well for future series.
Interweaving numerous plot-threads across its fourteen episodes, series four of The Brothers continues to be highly addictive entertainment. Brian and Ann’s disintegrating marriage is the definite highlight although the unstable powder-keg that is Edward ‘Ted’ Hammond also entertains. Patrick O’Connell plays Ted as a man constantly struggling to keep his anger in check – which can be seen most clearly any time that Jenny and Martin Farrell exchange glances. David’s fleeting desire to be a racing driver is less easy to swallow, but at least the one racing-centric episode – The Race – is not without interest, especially for the authentic track footage.
If you’ve yet to sample the world of the Hammond brothers, then now – with the first four series available and the remaining three due out by the end of the year – would appear to be the ideal time to do so.
The Brothers – Series Four is released by Simply Media on the 9th of January 2017. RRP £29.99.
Broadcast in early 1974, series three of The Brothers continues to chronicle the travails of the Hammonds, a family who are often at loggerheads as they squabble over the best way to run their business – Hammond Transport Services.
As seen in series one, the death of Robert Hammond initiated considerable strife and internecine bickering. Hammond’s eldest son Edward (initially played by Glyn Owen, but from series two by Patrick O’Connell) assumed he’d have sole responsibility of the company, so was more than a little taken aback when the terms of his father’s will were divulged. Equal shares were also left to his two brothers – Brian (Richard Easton) and David (Robin Chadwick) – as well as to his father’s secretary and mistress, Jenny Kingsley (Jennifer Wilson).
Mix in Robert Hammond’s widow Mary (Jean Anderson), an imposing matriarch keen to interfere at any given moment, as well as Brian’s rather forceful wife Ann (Hilary Tindall) and David’s more pliant wife Jill (Gabrielle Drake) and you have a combustible mixture with plenty of dramatic possibilities.
This helps to explain why The Brothers was a popular success, running for seven series between 1972 and 1976 (and indeed could have carried on a little longer still – there’s no sense by series seven that the concept had run out of steam). But although it clicked with the public it doesn’t seem to have been highly regarded by the BBC themselves. They appeared to have forgotten about it when preparing the drama budgets for 1977, meaning that there wasn’t any money left to commission an eighth series. It sounds barely credible, but it seems to be the case that one of the BBC’s top-rated dramas of the mid seventies ended because of an accounting quirk.
And it wasn’t just a success in the UK. Colin Baker delights in telling the following story. “A phone call came in from the foreign minister of Israel. He said that not only was he devastated not to be able to come and meet us as he was such a fan, but he suggested that had the Six Day War been launched on the Arab nations on the day that The Brothers was being shown instead of Yom Kippur, they would have had more of a chance of taking the nation by surprise because everybody watched The Brothers!” This seems so ridiculously unlikely that it must be true ….
The series also generated a rather bizarre spin off – an LP entitled Christmas with the Hammonds. Offering such delights as Edward ‘Ted’ Hammond and Paul Merroney warbling their way through Good King Wenceslas and a full-cast assault on The Twelve Days of Christmas it’s a wonky treat from beginning to end. Alas, it’s unavailable on CD, but the dedicated treasure hunter should be able to track down the original vinyl.
Created by Gerard Glaister and N. J. Crisp, it’s always interested me how Glaister could create and produce series such as Colditz and Secret Army on the one hand, but also dabble successfully in soap-like drama like as The Brothers and Howard’s Way as well (Trainer was something of a misfire though).
By the third run of The Brothers everything’s clicked nicely into place, although the introduction of Colin Baker as Paul Merroney (a character dubbed by some as a proto JR Ewing) is still a series away. Others yet to appear include Kate O’Mara (a regular from series five onwards) and Liza Goddard (who debuts in the sixth series). Hopefully if Simply keep up a healthy release rate then we’ll soon have the chance to enjoy all of their performances (Colin Baker fans won’t have too long to wait though, as series four is due for release in January 2017).
The third series opens with N.J. Crisp’s The Hammond Account. Brian has never been the most dynamic of characters, which means he tends to be manipulated by his much more ambitious wife Ann. Here, she’s keen that Brian should be managing director, rather than Ted. Several key threads are also introduced – such as the brothers debating how advertising could help to grow the company’s fortunes whilst Jill and David’s marriage starts to fray at the seams. Meanwhile on the shop floor, the trusty Bill Riley (Derek Benfield) is concerned that a new boardroom initiative will have a detrimental effect on driver recruitment ….
The first few moments of The Hammond Account also serves as a good introduction for new viewers, as we see David and Ted show a potential client, Mr Rogers (Robert MacLeod) around their site, explaining to him exactly how Hammonds operates. Shot on 16mm film, it’s a lovely slice of grimy seventies working life. Bill’s reluctance to countenance management employing non-union drivers is another reflection of that era.
Temptation is in the air in these early episodes. The smooth-as-butter advertising man Nicholas Fox (Jonathan Newth) is interested in Ann whilst David continues to find himself pursued by Julie Lane (Gillan McCutcheon). Hilary Tindall gives a wonderfully layered performance throughout the series as Ann. Given that Brian is a bit of a wet lettuce, you might expect that she’d be keen to seek solace elsewhere, but Ann does genuinely seem to love him. This is touched upon when she wonders why he doesn’t kiss her more often – he replies that he never knows whether she wants him to or not. Just a couple of lines of dialogue, but it illuminates both their characters very well.
Sadly, Jill is a much more pallidly drawn character than Ann. Gabrielle Drake is lovely of course, but she doesn’t have a great deal to work with (and since Jill rather devolves as time goes on, fading more and more into the background, it’s no surprise that Drake decided to leave after the next series). By contrast, Julie is a much more vivid presence, who also sports some rather fetching clothes. David’s tank top, which appears in episode two, is memorable too, albeit for a different reason.
The quartet of company directors – the three brothers plus Jenny – provides the series with plenty of decent character conflict. One such flashpoint occurs when Brian’s desire to move into Europe is temporarily blocked by David. Thanks to some dense plotting from the previous series, Hammond’s financial future has been secured by Jill (who has provided a substantial amount of capital to guarantee their loans). This becomes a source of considerable tension between the brothers. Both Richard Easton and Robin Chadwick raise the roof during these scenes.
Moving onwards, it’s pretty obvious from the title of the first non-Crisp story, Hijack, what direction Eric Paice’s story will take (we see a Hammond lorry, driven by Bill, hijacked and the goods stolen). There’s a decent amount of location filming as we follow Ted and Bill from Dover to Boulogne as Hammonds start to push into Europe.
Derek Benfield excels during the next episode, Riley, as Bill’s criminal conviction (even though it was all the way back in 1948) is raked up by the police, who decide he’s implicated in the hijack. Hugh Sullivan and Brian Grellis play the two coppers who delight in making Bill sweat. Grellis (DS Pritchard) is the good cop whilst Sullivan (DI Parsons) is most definitely the bad cop. Temporarily moving the focus away from the boardroom and bedroom squabbles and onto Bill Riley is a good move – since it helps to shake up the narrative a little.
The later part of series three sees the tensions in David and Jill’s marriage continue to simmer away (David’s always been more than a little smackable, so Jill has all my sympathy) whilst Ann finds herself increasingly drawn to the cravat-wearing Nicholas. And there’s a marvellously awkward dinner party as Mary entertains Jenny for the first time. Given that Jenny had a long-term affair with Mary’s late husband it’s not a surprise that their relationship has rarely ventured above glacial. But this brief moment of rapprochement quickly fades after Mary lends Jenny’s daughter, Barbara (Julia Goodman), a substantial sum of money to settle her new husband’s debts. It’s fair to say that Jenny’s not pleased about this ….
Because Jenny has no desire to be in debt to Mary, she decides to sell her Hammond shares – this sparks off an entertaining round of infighting which boils over in Conspirators. It’s a wonderfully entertaining 45 minutes from Eric Paice, packed with incident as David and Brian join forces to bid for Jenny’s shares (they also hope this will force Ted to leave the company). Ted reacts in fury when he learns what his brothers are planning, storming home and knocking back the scotches like they were water. In the end he persuades Jenny not to sell and clearly enjoys passing the news onto David and Brian.
Series three concludes in a suitably dramatic fashion with Return to Nowhere, which opens with the focus on Ann and ends with a cliffhanger centered around Mary.
With the writing credits shared pretty evenly between N.J. Crisp and Eric Paice, there’s a cohesive and coherent feel to the series. All of the regular cast get a good crack of the whip, but Hilary Tindall as Ann particularly impresses.
Picture quality across the thirteen episodes is generally very good. There’s the occasional spot of tape damage on a few episodes, but any such issues are quite brief.
Thanks to a first-rate cast and strong scripting, The Brothers – Series Three is consistently entertaining. It’s good news that the fourth series will follow shortly and also that the remaining three series are slated for release later in 2017.
The Brothers – Series Three is available now from Simply Media. RRP £29.99.