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A Very English Scandal

TV review by
Mark Dolan, Common Sense Media
A Very English Scandal TV Poster Image
Great acting in political sex scandal miniseries.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Main character employs dishonesty, ultimately murder to protect his political career.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thorpe is ruthless, callous, completely untrustworthy in his personal relationships -- essentially a sociopath. 

Violence

Guns are fired. Ease in which a man’s neck can be broken is discussed.

Sex

Descriptions of anal sex. A man and woman are shown having sex under a blanket. Men discuss having sex with secretaries.

Language

"Bitch," "s--t," "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine, smoke cigarettes; a character is addicted to alcohol and depressants.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Very English Scandal is a British drama based on the true story of U.K. Parliament member Jeremy Thorpe (played by Hugh Grant), whose 1960s affair with an emotionally unstable young stable boy named Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) goes from a loving relationship to political blackmail. After avoiding scandal early on, Thorpe saw his career rise, while the jilted Scott spiraled, with much strife ensuing. The series deals in sexual specifics, including sex scenes without nudity and extensive courtroom discussions about sexual acts.

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What's the story?

A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL is based on the true story of Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a member of Parliament in the 1960s whose affair with an emotionally unstable young stable boy named Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) goes from a loving relationship to political blackmail. After avoiding scandal early on, Thorpe’s career rises while the jilted Scott spirals, placing all the blame for his troubles on Thorpe. Once the politically ambitious Thorpe becomes the liberal party leader of the House of Commons, the need to keep up appearances increases. Meanwhile, Scott can't seem to find stability in his life and turns his resentment toward disrupting Thorpe's seemingly idyllic existence. Unwilling to let this pesky nuisance of an ex-lover topple his career, Thorpe ponders an easy solution: murder.

Is it any good?

Expertly directed by veteran Stephen Frears, this exceedingly well-acted drama moves briskly as it examines the lives of two very different men whose fates are intertwined. As Thorpe, Hugh Grant brings to the role the charm that made him a star: a privileged man who can't fathom not getting his way. However, in an interesting twist on Grant's standard on-screen persona, here he's a man who must use his charisma as a mask to cover up his private proclivities and a darker essence. Whishaw does a commendable job playing the many emotional ups and downs of Scott, though the character is such a bundle of neuroses and addictions that it's hard for the audience to sympathize with his desire to bring the truth about Thorpe forward. In the end, that's the main drawback of A Very English Scandal: There's no one really to root for in this story. And while that may be true to life, it ultimately keeps the viewer at a distance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can compare how the private lives of public figures were treated in the '60s and '70s with how they are currently. How do you think the situation depicted in A Very English Scandal would be depicted today? 

  • Families can talk about power and how it's used. Do people in power have to set a good example for others? How did they become powerful in the first place? 

TV details

For kids who love British drama

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