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Fox (1980)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Fox (1980)
Euston Films/Thames Television for ITV, 10/3-2/6/1980
13 x 60 minutes, colour
DirectorJim Goddard
Executive ProducerVerity Lambert
ProducerGraham Benson
PhotographyErnest Vincze

Cast: Peter Vaughan (Billy Fox); Elizabeth Spriggs (Connie Fox); Bernard Hill (Vin Fox); Derrick O'connor (Ray Fox); Larry Lamb (Joey Fox); Ray Winstone (Kenny Fox); Eamon Boland (Phil Fox); Rosemary Martin (Renie Fox); Richard Weinbaum (Andy Fox)

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The Fox family of South London adapts to changes in circumstance and fortune.

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In his original treatment, Trevor Preston complained that "It's difficult putting an idea like Fox down in a few pages", and it's easy to see why. With thirteen episodes totalling eleven hours, Fox is a sprawling epic of family life, with a host of major characters and a large supporting cast of memorable figures. Preston had previously worked with director Jim Goddard on Out (ITV, 1978) but unlike that tightly focussed revenge drama, Fox is expansive, and Preston weaves numerous plotlines to create a depth that is seldom seen in dramas of shorter length. Indeed, Goddard approached the series as if it were an 11-hour film, which was necessary for logistical reasons, but even so it took over a year to plan, shoot and complete the series.

Although Fox is multi-faceted, it is essentially the story of the Fox family, dominated by their patriarch Billy Fox, a retired Covent Garden market porter who is regarded with awe by the residents of Clapham where most of the action takes place. He has four sons by two marriages, and although he is a family man, the sons struggle to form their own identity under his shadow. There is a particular tension between Billy and his intellectual son, Phil, a left-wing firebrand, which is exacerbated when Phil refuses to attend his youngest brother's vital boxing match, the ramifications of which rumble on throughout the series. When Billy dies, the family tries to hold itself together, but individual trials and tribulations create division, and Phil departs to the US in order to work through his feelings. The resolution of the series is ambiguous, and although Phil returns, there is no real sense that the family will ever be the same again.

Fox is quite a rarity on television, as it is unusual for a serial of the time and of such length to have one author and one director. Preston described it as "The Forsyte Saga in 13 episodes about somebody who lives in Clapham", and few series of this length have such an attention to character development. There are a number of storylines that include the criminal underworld familiar from earlier Euston productions, but they support the underlying themes of loyalty and trust within 'families', and avoid the familiar stereotypes. Fox, alongside Out, embodies the best of Euston, both in terms of popular appeal, and subsequent critical acclaim.

John Williams

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Video Clips
1. University life (2:33)
2. Father and son (4:53)
3. Gone fishing (2:22)
4. Hospital (2:47)
Complete episode: 'Perfect Scapegoat Syndrome' (51:08)
Out (1978)
Goddard, Jim (1936-2013)
Hill, Bernard (1944-)
Nighy, Bill (1949-)
Preston, Trevor
Vaughan, Peter (1923-)
Winstone, Ray (1957-)
Euston Films