After the Power Game...


Michael Gambon as newly elected MP John Killane and Colin Blakely as established MP Sam Brodie - THE CHALLENGERS

First broadcast on Monday 3rd January 1972, The Challengers was a six part series which followed two Members of Parliament in Anderby, an industrial town with two constituencies Colin Blakely played locally born Labour MP Sam Brodie, a man with 15 years in power. Michael Gambon played newly elected Conservative MP John Killane - a man who didn't expect to be elected and is still trying to find his way around the corridors of power.

The series was created by Edmund Ward, who had written the first episode of the The Plane Makers - the 4 February 1963 episode, 'Don't Worry About Me' - which had starred Colin Blakely as skilled hand Jack Clement. More recently, Ward had created The Main Chance and Grady for Yorkshire Television. Written between February and November 1971, The Challengers saw him teamed up once more with Marc Miller, director of Grady.

In an introductory article for the TV Times, Ward explained that "My own commitment is to this country. I do not care about what labels are worn by the men who run it - so long as they run it well." The series would be about people in politics, rather than politics itself. Put into production while Ward was still writing the final episodes, the series represented a snapshot of a 1970's just dragging itself out of the 1960's. Ward's list of some of the concerns show just what a different world it was: "Decimalisation, for instance. What kind of penny for the Guy? The prospect of a Value Added Tax, whatever that is - and the Common Market, and whether or not it was legal to be in a union or opt out."

The opening episode The Tomorrow Business saw Labour MP Sam Brodie as an interested observer of the by-election in his neighbouring constitutency. Conservative candidate John Killane expected to be fighting a lost cause against his Labour opponent until a scandal upset everything. Killane, a meritocrat who has built up a market research business from a secon-hand typewriter in a borrowed office, suddenly finds himself elected. Now he needs to find his way among two different worlds - the local party politics of his constituency in Anderby, and the high-stakes world of nationla politics in Westminster.

When the wagon sheds, in which Brodie started as an apprentice, face closure, the potential job losses provide Killane with an opportunity to bring jobs and investment to the town with a new industrial development. As in The Power Game conflict arises from constrasting goals - what is good for a small community and what is good for the nation? Can personal and public goals be aligned? Are all the jobs created by the new development going to be local or will sub-contractors be allowed to bring in labour from outside?

The series featured William Gaunt (The Champions)as Killane's business partner, Hilary Dwyer ( Witchfinder General) as his "neurotic ex-wife" and Joanna Van Gyseghem (Fraud Squad) as Brodie's constituency agent. Ironically, the episode History Doesn't Pay The Rent featured one of Yorkshire TV's actual news presenters Austin Mitchell as a TV interviewer. Mitchell would himself become MP for Great Grimsby in 1977.

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