The Organization - out now on DVD

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 23:00

The Organization - out now on DVDCorporate politics sounds a very dry subject to make a TV series from, but anyone who has found themselves in an office environment will sagely nod as they work out “who’s who” in their own workplace from this 1972 series. The idea that everyone is “going through the motions” is reflected in the episode titles of the series – one character of two mentioned in each title appears again in the next, until by the seventh story we have gone full circle, and one character from the first story is mentioned once more. Yes, the action is mainly studio bound, with only the occasional scene committed to film, but this is very much a ‘slow burner’ – the plot weaving its mysterious way to a satisfying conclusion.

The Organization, (not to be confused with a 1971 Sidney Poitier film of the same name) with its American spelling of the term, came from Yorkshire Television and is very stiff upper-lip British in its sensibilities. The central cast is iconic – including the likes of Donald Sinden, Anton Rodgers (two of the actors who played Number 2 in The Prisoner), Bernard Hepton (Albert Foiret in Secret Army) and Peter Egan (Shrimpie MacClare in Downton Abbey) star in this acutely observed drama which exposes the intrigues, resentments, bewilderments and betrayals of the staff of Greatrick (as in “great trick”), a large corporation.

To sum it all up, Richard Pershore (played by Egan) says: “The interests of the individual, any individual, are far more important than those of the organisation”. The irony is that this is actually far from the case!  

The writer is Philip Mackie, whose most famous project is undoubtedly “The Naked Civil Servant”. Other television work of note was Mr Rose, Napoleon and Love, Raffles, and the dramatisation of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The release of The Organization gives hope that the much-requested Cover from 1981, just six episodes and another cult offering, finally sees the light of day. In it, Alan Howard plays Cragoe, head of a Government spy-testing organisation, who’s a cold-blooded man with an obsessive hatred of a colleague he very much fears. Sandra Dickinson co-stars as Zelda, to ramp up the curiosity on this one.

The Organization is very much based on Mackie’s own experiences, enveloped in what is a faceless, monolithic concern where the much-mentioned ‘Chairman’ is never actually seen. The sole purpose of the corporate monolith seems only to be to make more millions in profits. In its headquarters we meet an assortment of middle and junior executives, among them new boy Richard Pershore (Egan), a young hopeful who knows he’s just walked into a nest of vipers. There’s also press officer Rodney Spurling (Hepton), who is widely known as the Chairman's whipping boy, and head of Public Relations David Pulman (Sinden), who plays the business game better than any of them.

Pulman has a superbly efficient and extremely Machiavellian secretary in Veronica (Elaine Taylor – who had been spotted in an episode of Mr Rose, and had also guested on the likes of Jason King and Strange Report). Veronica eventually gets her own assistants in the shape of first Margo (the delectable Susan Glanville – who features in episodes of Ace of Wands, Budgie, New Scotland Yard and Out of the Unknown) and then Prudence (the iconic Amazonian that is Valerie Leon).

Jill Melford plays Eve Manship, the most high-up woman we meet in the company, and almost the only female given a character surname, who holds her own at the male-dominated level of senior management. Jill was very much a TV regular by this time, having guest starred on The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, White Hunter, The Vise, Man from Interpol, The Cheaters, Echo Four Two, No Hiding Place, Ghost Squad, Sergeant Cork, two episodes of Danger Man (“The Galloping Major” and “Whatever Happened to George Foster?”) and The Saint (“Marcia”). She went on to feature in The New Avengers, Hazell, Taggart and Crossroads.

Also on-hand we have more secretaries in the shape of Daphne (Jo Kendall – At Last the 1948 Show), Heather (Beth Morris – Evalina in The District Nurse), and Rosemary (Sharon Maughan – Tricia Williams in Holby City). Playing it for laughs is tea lady Edna (Gretchen Franklin – Ethel Skinner in Eastenders).

A target for being put out to pasture is Ken Grist (Norman Bird – Mr Braithwaite in Worzel Gummidge), whose wife Googie is played by Hilda Braid (Nana Moon in Eastenders, Mum in Citizen Smith). Trying to avoid the crossfire is Johnny Watt (John Laurimore – Count Federico in Doctor Who “The Masque of Mandragora”).

You’ll also see small roles for the likes of Gareth Hunt, David Graham, Mel Martin, John Shrapnel and John Nettleton.

All in all, if you treat this as a piece of theatre rather than a television series, then you will be able acclimatise yourself to the talk-heavy material. All the characters are well-drawn, and the slightest nuance does portray oodles of unspoken back story in many cases. There are characters who play it straight, and others who have hidden agendas. The mystery comes from working out which is which.

The only extra within the set is an extensive image gallery, but Network have added value by putting online an eight minute interview with Marc Sinden, Donald’s son, who talks knowledgably about the show.

The Organisation – The Complete Series is out now from Network. The two DVD set has a ‘12’ certificate, a running of 367 minutes approx, and a RRP of £19.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

 

THE ORGANIZATION – EPISODE LISTING

 

01. “Mr Pershore and Ken Grist”

Title characters played by: Peter Egan and Norman Bird.

Original Transmission: 16 April 1972

 

02. “Ken Grist and Eve”

Title characters played by: Norman Bird and Jill Melford

Original Transmission: 23 April 1972

 

03. “Eve and Rodney Spurling”

Title characters played by: Jill Melford and Bernard Hepton

Original Transmission: 30 April 1972

 

04. “Rodney Spurling and Peter Frame”

Title characters played by: Bernard Hepton and Anton Rodgers

Original Transmission: 7 May 1972

 

05. “Peter Frame and Veronica”

Title characters played by: Anton Rodgers and Elaine Taylor

Original Transmission: 14 May 1972

 

06. “Veronica and Mr Pulman”

Title characters played by: Elaine Taylor and Donald Sinden

Original Transmission: 21 May 1972

 

07. “Mr Pulman and Mr Pershore”

Title characters played by: Donald Sinden and Peter Egan

Original Transmission: 28 May 1972

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 30 September 2016 16:39

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