A Very English Scandal, nominated as Best Limited Series at The Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and The Critics Choice Awards this year, is now streaming on Showmax. Directed by Oscar nominee Stephen Frears (The Queen), the three-part miniseries tells the stranger-than-fiction story of Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a British politician who begins a whirlwind affair with a young stable hand, Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) – in 1960s England, where homosexuality was illegal.
Jeremy’s career goes from strength to strength, as he becomes the leader of The Liberal Party and the youngest leader of any British political party in a hundred years. But when their relationship turns sour, Norman becomes a secret that Jeremy is desperate to hide. Behind the oak-panelled doors of Parliament, Jeremy turns to his friends for decisive action. He can see only one way to silence Norman for good…
Here are five reasons to binge this immediately:
1 Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe
In his first British TV role since the early 1990s, Hugh’s been nominated for the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, The Critics Choice Award, and the BAFTA – among other accolades this year – for his portrayal of the first British politician to stand trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder.
While Hugh is best known as the Golden Globe- and BAFTA-winning star of romantic comedies like Four Weddings And a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually, his role as Jeremy is a decidedly darker turn, leading to talk in The New York Times of “the dawn of the Hugh Grant renaissance.”
As his co-star Ben Whishaw put it at The Golden Globes, “He’s as method as Marlon Brando… I feel like this performance is as good as anything I’ve ever seen anyone do.”
2 Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott
Ben won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Best Supporting Actor awards this year for his role as Norman Scott, also known as Norman Josiffe. As his co-star Hugh Grant puts it, “Ben’s one of the great actors of his generation” – an Emmy- and BAFTA-winning star of series like Criminal Justice and films like Perfume and Mary Poppins Returns, who also stars as Q in the Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, and voices the title character in Paddington and Paddington 2.
As screenwriter Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Queer As Folk) says, “When I first set this up with the BBC, Charlotte Moore, who is head of all things at the BBC, said, ‘We’ll get Ben Whishaw.’ I thought, ‘Oh, we’ll be lucky; that’s like, “Go and get the Crown Jewels!”’… He’s done it brilliantly, absolutely magnificently. Never playing the victim, which is what I love about it because Norman Scott in some ways was the victim of events but in his life he is not a victim. I think Ben captures that perfectly.”
3 Two-time Oscar nominee Stephen Frears directs
Stephen Frears was nominated for the Oscar and Golden Globe for his directing on The Queen, another classic about British leadership. He’s already up for the BAFTA for A Very English Scandal, which RogerEbert.com calls “his best work in over a decade… Frears has long been a great actor for directors, drawing some of the career-best work from performers like Michelle Pfeiffer, Helen Mirren, Annette Bening, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Day-Lewis, and John Cusack, among many others. Here, he brings the absolute best out of Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, who give riveting performances in the telling of one of the UK’s most shocking political scandals. This is a must-see.”
“Frears is of course a genius but he’s not without his eccentricities,” says lead actor Hugh Grant, who also worked with him on the Oscar-nominated Florence Foster Jenkins. “Before I did Florence Foster Jenkins with him, I assumed he would be a micromanager of actors and devoted to deep analysis of character and plot. On the contrary, he’s very trusting. He hates character discussion; he hates plot discussions. ‘I don’t know; I don’t know. Whatever you think. I trust you. It’s all down to you.’ That’s the way he directs.”
4 A Very English Scandal has a 97% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes
A Very English Scandal was The New York Times’ favourite series of 2018 and landed on Best Of lists from Deadline, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal, among many others. CNN called it “Brilliant… almost like the perfect marriage of The Crown and a Coen brothers movie.” The Sydney Morning Herald hailed it as “A very British masterpiece… Television gold…”; The New York Times called it “Dazzling… In pace and potency puts The Crown to shame;” and The Hollywood Reporter labeled it “one of the tightest and brightest and most sublime miniseries that you’re likely to see on television.”
CNN called it “Brilliant… almost like the perfect marriage of The Crown and a Coen brothers movie.”
5 It’s funny and sad at the same time
Three-time BAFTA-winning screenwriter Russell T. Davies is nominated again this year for his tightrope walk between humour and heartache in A Very English Scandal.
As Indiewire put it, “At its core, A Very English Scandal is a very dark and sad tale, but you might not really notice it at first, because it’s so very fun to watch.”
“The balance between comedy and drama is probably why I was employed in the first place because it’s the way I tend to write,” says Russell. “It’s the way I try to see life. Life can be mad. There are funny bits but these are real lives and there’s a tone of darkness, melancholy and frustration in these men. You have to understand that sometimes the funny stuff is the stuff that happens on the surface, while underneath there are great tides of emotion, repression, frustration and lust that are going on.“
Binge A Very English Scandal on Showmax here. Just be warned: you may never be able to watch Paddington 2 with your kids in the same way again. In the hit family film, Ben voiced the beloved bear, while Hugh played the villain, Phoenix Buchanan. When A Very English Scandal debuted, Twitter had a field day.
- Nominated as Best Limited Series at The Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards
- Starring Hugh Grant in a Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated role
- Starring Ben Whishaw in a Golden Globe-winning role
- Directed by Oscar nominee Stephen Frears (The Queen)
- The New York Times’ favourite TV series of 2018
- 97% critics rating, Rotten Tomatoes