Socialist Worker

In a Land of Plenty: View from top drawer

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 1730

In a Land Of Plenty, which began this week, is the BBC's most ambitious drama serial for a long time. It spans ten episodes. It centres on the life of James Freeman, from his birth in 1956 to the present day. He's born into a rich family and has a comfortable childhood. But there are tensions as well.

The head of the family is Charles Freeman. He's the tsar of an engineering factory, a man who wants you to know that he rose though his own efforts (and because his dad owned the factory). He's ruthless and doesn't want his factory to be beautiful. He says the company is about 'making things to make money'.

James is the 'sensitive' son who wants more than a life dedicated to his father's gods of 'production, stocktaking and leadership'. He goes through a slow process of revolt. Don't expect a Ken Loach style drama or anything as good as Our Friends in the North.

But on the evidence of the first three episodes I've seen, the series does make some very good points about women's oppression and about class. We see the nanny carefully arranging the kids for the happy family photos-and then nanny slips out of the frame for the picture itself.

We wince as the child of the servant family 'below stairs' gets her first lessons in bowing to the master. And you get a sense of the change from the 1950s to the 1960s as Mary, the boss's wife, goes from dutiful consort to rebellious poetry-lover. In future episodes a strike breaks out at the engineering factory. I'll keep watching to see how the series develops. It's well-made television, streets ahead of most of the rubbish pumped out.

In a Land of Plenty is on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC2.


A TIME TO KILL (Sun, 10.15pm, BBC1) is the film version of John Grisham's excellent novel. It is about a lawyer who defends a black factory worker accused of murdering the racists who raped his daughter.

PRETTY VILLAGE, PRETTY FLAME (Mon, 12.55am, C4). This anti-war film about the 1992 civil war in Bosnia is worth setting the video for.

THE WEST WING (Thu 18 Jan, 10pm, C4). This new US drama is set in the White House under the rule of a liberal president. But will President Bartlet handle the crisis he faces over Cuban refugees any better than George W Bush?

EXCLUSIVE SHOWING OF FILM 'LA COMMUNE' SUNDAY 21 JANUARY, 2PM Edward Lewis Lecture Theatre, Cleveland Street, London W1 Phone 020 7517 9196 for details

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Sat 13 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1730
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