Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this BBC spy miniseries is full of sophisticated dialogue and a twisting, intricate plot. Although the show's violence is relatively tame compared to modern standards (and the theatrical version), the plotting and characterization will make this series interesting only to teens with the patience to pay close attention and follow the events. The show is not based on any historical elements but there could be an educational opportunity for teens interested in learning more about the political environment of the cold war and the role of espionage in world politics.
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What's the Story?
The hero of several of author John Le Carre's spy thrillers makes his move to television via the 1979 BBC adaptation of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. Former operative George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is coaxed out of retirement after it's discovered that there may be a Russian agent working at the highest levels of British intelligence. One of four senior figures are suspected, and it's Smiley's task to methodically comb through available information to slowly, carefully uncover the threat buried deep within the British government. The unraveling of the mystery ultimately revolves around a failed operation in Budapest and the cold, determined advance of Smiley's mastery of espionage.
Is It Any Good?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is perhaps one of the finest examples of the BBC's ability to cast remarkable talent in dramatic productions that rival any contemporary theatrical work.
Here it's Alec Guinness who steals the show, a cold and ever-vigilant spy among spies, who says more with the raise of an eyebrow than many actors can in three-minute monologues. His George Smiley is an amazing creation and he inhabits a world of quiet, sinister intrigue, where men in long trenchcoats slip in and out of buildings via back staircases to avoid detection by suspected adversaries. Compared to the typical pulse-pounding spy series of today, Tinker, Tailor is certainly a throwback, but in the best possible way. It's a warm bath full of mildly corrosive acid that demands attention and earns admiration.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what kind of messages a show like this sends. What kind of world does it depict? Is it a realistic one?
Are there any contemporary news stories that resemble the events of the film?
- Premiere date: September 10, 1979
- Cast: Alec Guinness, Ian Richardson, Patrick Stewart
- Network: PBS
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: February 25, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Madcap, classic sketch comedy with adult themes.
Dark, bloody, but excellent British crime drama.
Excellent British cop series with blood and some intimacy.
For kids who love drama
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