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After the War (1989)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of After the War (1989)
Granada for ITV, tx. 16/6-25/8/1989
10 x 52 min episodes, colour
DirectorsMichael Cox, John Glenister, John Madden, Nicholas Renton
ProducersMichael Cox, Sita Williams
ScreenplayFrederic Raphael

Cast: Adrian Lukis (Michael Jordan); Ingrid Hafner (Philippa Jordan); Clare Higgins (Rachel Jordan); Robert Reynolds (Joe Hirsch); Anton Rodgers (Samuel Jordan); Caroline Goodall (Sally Raglan); Serena Gordon (Annie Rose)

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Three generations and 25 years of modern life from 1945.

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Thirteen years after the success of The Glittering Prizes (BBC, 1976), Frederic Raphael revisited many of its themes in After the War: the Jew in a Gentile society, the media world, the English establishment. The new series was even more ambitious and costly, ranging in ten episodes across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, from 1942 to 1967. Another dark-eyed, dark-haired actor represented aspects of the author, as the character of Michael Jordan makes his way through the worlds of journalism, theatre and films. Here, the hero's privileged and sophisticated life is contrasted with that of a fellow Jew, Joe Hirsch, who is not rich or influential but a refugee from war-torn Europe who has to claw his way up in the world. Here, too, the Raphael figure has a sister, Rachel, whose life ultimately bridges the worlds of both men.

Like John Mortimer in Paradise Postponed (ITV, 1986), Raphael explores aspects of the postwar world, taking in Nazi-hunting, Fleet Street sleaze, the Six Day War, the colonial legacy and West African independence. Michael's life is blighted by guilt - at being the 'lucky' Jew who never experienced the Holocaust at first hand and who grew up in plenty and comfort in middle-class London. His experiences are contrasted with those of Joe, who is much more politically aware, cynical and streetwise. Middle episodes become bogged down in the bitchy showbiz world of 1950s and 1960s London, which perhaps enthrals Raphael more than his audience, but the series picks up when Rachel accompanies her husband to Africa - a trip which changes her life.

Raphael writes with his customary wit and tackles some important issues, but his characters are, on the whole, too unsympathetic to really engage the audience. It is hard to care deeply about Michael, perhaps because he never seems to engage emotionally with anyone he meets - apart from Pierrette, a French girl with bad memories of the Gestapo, who becomes the unattainable love of his life until they meet again in the final episode, when he sees her for the embittered, vengeful and loveless creature she really is.

Transmission was originally postponed by four months, as Granada executives feared the series would be 'too demanding', but the same year brought further examples of the 'TV novel' form virtually pioneered by Raphael, including Malcolm Bradbury's Anything More Would Be Greedy (ITV) and Brian Thompson and John Hawkesworth's Chelworth (BBC).

Janet Moat

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Video Clips
1. Michael and Joe (2:35)
2. Looking forwards (1:44)
3. Night raid (3:10)
4. Michael's confession (1:29)
Complete episode - 'Friends and Enemies' - Part 1 (27:58)
Part 2 (23:42)
Malik, Art (1953-)
Palmer, Geoffrey (1927-)
Raphael, Frederic (1931-)
York, Susannah (1939-2011)