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THE BROTHERS SERIES 7 DVD REVIEW by Rob Cope

 

It’s been a long and winding road – especially in a Scania – but all good things come to an end. By the autumn of 1976, the writing was on the wall for The Brothers as the final series took to the airwaves. Having amassed a total of 92 episodes over just five years, and with ratings still very healthy, The Brothers intended going out in style.

We begin with a wedding. That of Paul Merroney and Lord Winter’s socialite daughter April. Colin Baker had proved the real engine room of the previous two series and it was a position he was determined to hold until the last, but wisely the producers had given him a more than able sparring partner in Liza Goddard, often playing the posh bird but this time, she has a certain amount of bite to her. Naturally it is all kisses and “I’ll be home for dinner, darling” but it won’t last. You might remember that Paul unceremoniously ditched his doting secretary Clare Miller for the well connected April at the end of the last series, and with Sir Neville fading fast the race is on for his successor to be named. Paul and April’s brother, Simon Winter are both in the frame. But has Paul trodden on too many toes to land the big prize?

Kate O'Mara & Hilary Tindall: Handbags at dawn for the love of Brian.

As if in celebration of all that has gone before, we get two returning cast members. None more welcome than Hilary Tindall as sultry Ann Hammond. She has returned to the UK from her base in France and is restless. Life away from her dead end marriage to Brian is not as rosy as she hoped it would be. Then there is their daughter Carol. She returns as a gawky teenager – not sure how that fits in with the established time line – wise beyond her years and fast becoming a hippy-esque figure who insists on calling her grandmother Mary. Nobody seems to pick her up on it. She and her mother Ann are two cats fighting for domination, and things are not helped when Carol takes a shine to husband Brian’s new amour Jane Maxwell. A woman not noted for her backward manner. As viewers we wait patiently for these two mighty feminine forces to cross paths, and sure enough they do. But who emerges the victor?

We need to talk about Carol!

Paul is casting his net further and further. Now he has a scheme to develop Hammond business in the Far East, operating a truck repair service out of Tehran. It is perhaps a step too far for some members of the Hammond Board, but a deputation is sent out to investigate the feasibility. It seems though that Van Kepe from the Dutch holding firm is taking a keener eye on April than Paul would like.

April flirts Paul Van Kepe. The minx.

Jane Maxwell has her own problems, not least the local opposition to the expansion of the runways. That pales though when the news comes through that one of the C41 aircraft she has purchased has disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic… Brian and David are both fighting for Jane’s affections, which she is happy to play along with. Mary though is having none of it, when she finds out that Jane is playing one son off against the other, a showdown is on the cards.

Jennifer Wilson and Patrick O'Connell use up their one smile per series.

Having been on a management training course, Ted is a bit more mellow than in previous series. He is taking advantage of the opportunities being thrown at Hammonds. Jenny meanwhile is not having the best of things having knocked over a man on a bike whilst driving to Paul and April’s wedding. With the court case looming, it starts to put (another) strain on her marriage. The return of the prodigal daughter brings some joy, Barbara (Julia Goodman) is back from Canada seemingly on a holiday. But the full story is not quite the version she is telling.

Paul Merroney and Miss Vickey - not a match made in heaven.

Gwen Riley suffers more than most as The Brothers spies the winning post. She has something of a mid life crisis. Having been gazumped for the house she has set her heart on, she wonders what her role is in life now that the kids have left home. Just as she is coming to terms with a brighter future, there is a knock on the door. Son Ronnie has been involved in an accident, but Bill is away on an undercover mission in Holland trying to get to the bottom of the smuggling of illegal immigrants via the international truck routes. She is left to face the aftermath alone.

Gwen watches her son suffering. From being called Ronnie Riley mostly.

Once again the cast of The Brothers excel in this final lap of honour. Although the likes of Colin Baker and Kate O’Mara get the juicier scenes, stalwarts from the beginning such as Patrick O’Connell, Jennifer Wilson and Robin Chadwick continue to provide the bedrock of the series. As always hovering in the background Jean Anderson plays the matriarch to the hilt. Together they are a winning combination. The inclusion of Liza Goddard brings a welcome blast of fresh air to the formula. Let us not forget Derek Benfield and Margaret Ashcroft who continue to shine, providing the ‘working class’ ethic to the a series awash with middle class aspirations. Mention too must go to Christine Absalom as Judy Vickery, the bumbling replacement secretary for Merroney. Christine and Colin Baker have some fine comic scenes together, and had an eighth series been forthcoming Miss Vickery was a stand out for a return visit.

Barbara returns for a slice of Mary's cake.

But sadly there was to be no eighth series. Despite strong ratings, the BBC simply gave up on The Brothers. But in hindsight, perhaps it is better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay your welcome. It is a tribute to the writers and cast that The Brothers goes out on a high. This final volume shows no sign of a dip in quality, in fact it just reminds us of what a powerful force the BBC Drama department was in the 1970s. Wallow in one last big slice of a classic television series at its peak.

The last hurrah. A boozy Christmas party has the Hammonds wondering what lies ahead.

THE COMPLETE SERIES 7 DVD CAN BE ORDERED FROM SIMPLY HOME ENTERTAINMENT

 

 
 
THE BROTHERS SERIES 6 DVD REVIEW by Rob Cope
 

Simply Media have now reached the penultimate sixth series in their rolling out of The Brothers on DVD. It has been a rough road so far for the Hammond’s and you know it is not going to get any easier with thirteen episodes to fill. But luckily new producer Bill Sellars has a crack team of writers at the ready to make sure we are kept enthralled by the latest developments.

Just wild about Harry? Dr. Who's Ian Marter discusses babies with Patrick O'Connell

By now, it is pretty much The Paul Merroney Show. He is at the heart of most storylines as he continues to out manoeuvre both competitors and fellow members of the Hammond Transport board. For those who only know Colin Baker’s work through his brash grandeur as the Sixth Doctor in Doctor Who, they might well be surprised at the subtlety and finesse he approaches the characterisation of Paul. He plays Merroney as a wily fox, keeping his emotions in check hardly ever betraying this true feelings and thoughts lest that puts him at a disadvantage. Only rarely do we see the tiger behind the smart pin striped suit. But when he does emerge you know that someone is going to suffer.

Ted, Bill & Paul think they are one step ahead of Kirkmans.

The Brothers repertory company all return: Patrick O’Connell is impressively curt and aggressive as Ted, Jennifer Wilson offers quiet pragmatism as Jenny, Richard Easton is back on form post breakdown as Brian and Robin Chadwick is now making David a bit more worldly wise than he started out, having gone through so much personally and professionally.

Flying high but not flying dry. Trouble for Don Stacey.

Naturally Jean Anderson is the driving force behind all her sons. The matriarch who has to be placated and answered to, but she equally makes Mary a skilful reader of people, even if her methods of bending them to her will are none too subtle. Mary Hammond finds a suitor of sorts in Sir Neville Henniswode, played marvellously by Carleton Hobbs. Sir Neville comes over as a benign old duffer but his mind and nose for a killing for his merchant bank are sharper than ever as the Hammond’s are about to find out.

Pass me a bucket (pronounced Bouquet!)! Jennifer entertains a dodgy visitor.

The subject of fostering baby William is carried over from Series 5. You have to feel sorry for Jennifer Wilson being given this somewhat lame storyline, it plods along and you know the outcome won’t be a happy one. Thankfully by mid series the Jennifer Hammond (nee Kingsley) of old is back. Offering some firm reality to the squabbling of the boys. In fact she seems to be a couple of steps ahead of them on occasion, which reminds people that despite the series title being very male dominated, it is the women who are keeping the men where they want them for the most part. This certainly applies to poor Gwen Riley. Margaret Ashcroft’s eternally sunny northern housewife takes a knock when the house she has so desperately wanted is subject to the whims and fancies of Hammond’s future. Her character is the one we can sympathise with the most, the home maker who cares nothing for the cut and thrust of big business but is forever dealing with its consequences.

Mary and Sir Neville take a stroll on his vast estate. What a banker!

Kate O’Mara is always television gold, and here she has lost none of Jane Maxwell’s outspoken fire. However, there is real concern when alcoholic pilot and ex-husband Don Stacey is called for a company medical. Mike Pratt’s jokey demeanour takes a knock and his future is called into question. These are the last television episodes Mike Pratt made before his untimely death in July 1976. It is a touching swansong.

Mind your language David, Francoise Pascal is on the loose!

David falls foul of Therese d’Alambert - played with seductive aplomb by Francoise Pascal. Whilst on a trip to France to investigate possible routes for the European market, he inadvertently loses 11,000 in the casino. A tab picked up by Therese. It is a debt which could have much wider ranging ramifications for Hammonds.

Then there is the tender for a large government haulage contract which has come on the market thanks to the liquidation of its former operator. It falls to a two horse race between Kirkmans Transport and Hammonds. But it seems Kirkmans are getting insider information. There is apparently a mole in the camp. The board members go into overdrive as they try to work out who among their number is doing the dirty.

Headscarves for the horsey set. Liza Goddard is here!

A few familiar television faces pop up during the course of this series. Ian Marter, best known as Tom Baker’s companion Harry Sullivan in Doctor Who, plays the step father of young baby William. Hilary Minster of ‘Allo ‘Allo fame gives the second of his roles in the show and Richard Bucket himself Clive Swift is very much keeping up appearances as he plays everyone off against each other. Finally though we get to meet Paul Merroney’s finance, April Winter, bright natured posh totty played by Liza Goddard. Although only a brief appearance, it sets the scene for a much greater role in events during the seventh series. It does though rattle faithful secretary Clare Miller (Carole Mowlam) who has firm designs on Paul, which it now becomes obvious are not being returned.

The last goodbye. Mike Pratt's final scene.

Just when you think every angle has been covered with regard to Hammonds operations,along comes situations and new conflict for the board. This sixth series remains just as entertaining and enticing as the previous five. The cast are all at their peak, having thoroughly bedded in their characters. The drive to merge Hammond Transport with Van Der Merwe’s Dutch operation is an ideal catalyst for the boardroom bitching and power play that symbolises the show. The conflict across the table is almost tangible on occasion and that is down to the superb performances and direction. A feature of this show from the off. Fans of these DVD gems will find much to keep them glued to the screen in this penultimate outing.

YOU CAN ORDER THE COMPLETE SERIES 6 FROM SIMPLY HOME ENTERTAINMENT HERE

 
 
THE BROTHERS SERIES 5 DVD REVIEW by Rob Cope
 

Farewell old Boardroom - you've seen some action!

The end of series 4 saw a major coup in the Boardroom of Hammond Transport, for the first time Edward Hammond is toppled as Chairman and Managing Director. He is replaced by city finance guru Martin Farrell. However as we start series 5, Farrell is nowhere to be seen. In fact the Board have received his resignation. Oh what a pickle. The Directors know they need someone with influence in the financial heartland of City trading to head the board, and one man is waiting in the wings. Enter Paul Merroney. After a supporting role in the last series, Colin Baker’s smarmy whiz kid is back and this time he means (big) business. He operates with the cold calculating efficiency of a robot, and is one step ahead of his fellow board members in almost every situation. He knows how to manipulate people when necessary and this is evident in his dealing with Brian Hammond. We open the series in the divorce court with Brian giving a summary of the end of his marriage to Ann. He is now promoted to Managing Director of the firm, but it is clear this affable fellow is struggling to cope. Not just with his work load, but to life in the wake of Ann leaving with the children. Once again Richard Easton shows what an exemplary actor he is, handling the breakdown we can see coming with great sensitivity. He is put into a psychiatric hospital facility to be monitored and recuperate, and immediately distances himself from the family. Brian only allows an outwardly supportive and sympathetic Merroney to visit him. And Merroney wouldn’t use the situation to his own advantage, would he?

Brian has just seen how long he has to wait until the Series 6 DVD!

Elsewhere David has his own troubles, and the series is filled with another vacuum. Following the departures of Ann and Jill, we are thrown into the courtship of Edward and Jennifer. Naturally Mary is none too pleased, she thought she had put that fire out way back. We get scenes of playful skiing in Switzerland as a business trip turns into the realisation that they just cannot live without each other. This time the rollercoaster is way past stopping and the registry office calls. Back in 1975, this was the reward for millions of viewers who had written to the BBC and cast by the sack full to let Edward and Jennifer marry. They finally get their wish, although its low key by television standards.

Edward and Jennifer on the piste...

The theme of series 5 is very much change. Both in the scope of operations for Hammond Transport and the on screen ensemble. Hammonds ditches its functional, slightly shabby office block and in comes a new designer chic set, more fitting for a company floated on the stock exchange. The polygon shaped boardroom table now seating seven comfortably. Which is a good thing, because Kate O’Mara is on her way.

The little woman with big hair - the shrew has landed.

The legendary O’Mara – in the first of her many strong, controlling power roles – arrives as feisty Jane Maxwell, owner of Flair Freight. This freight airline company is in financial trouble and Merroney sees a way of stepping in and getting it for a song. Also in tow comes hard drinking pilot Don Stacey, the last role before the untimely death of Randall & Hopkirk Deceased star Mike Pratt. O’Mara’s star quality is evident from the minute she sets foot on the set and locks horns with the new Chairman. Merroney has the measure of the Hammond brothers, but this new addition is an altogether different challenge.

Easy jet? Flair Freight's alcoholic pilot Don Stacey

Another new arrival is Claire Miller (played by Carole Mowlam), Merroney’s personal secretary. He manipulates and uses her just as we would any of his fellow directors or business clients. She, for her part, is unswervingly loyal, and a fledgling friendship with David is seen by Paul as a way to further influence the youngest Hammond.

Cosy lift chat. Going down?

The Brothers starts to stray a little into soap from its drama base camp, but whatever the tone of the storylines they are played with admirable conviction by a strong cast.  Its now a different show from that which it started out, but its still great telly. The additions to the cast bring an altogether new dynamic and it gives added impetus to the ongoing saga of the Hammonds. Just when you think The Brothers is going to get cozy, there are new characters, new battles and new mountains to climb for the haulage firm. Series 5 finds the show on fine form once again. Check it out.

Oooh swanky new Boardroom, nearly as plush as the Simply Media offices!

 
 

THE BROTHERS SERIES 4 DVD REVIEW by Rob Cope

Just a matter of weeks since the climatic events of The Brothers third series were felt, along comes the very welcome complete fourth series of the hugely popular 1970s drama courtesy of Simply Media once more. You may remember that Edward and Jennifer had gone on an impromptu holiday and decided on the spot to marry. Rushing home in order to deliver the potentially devastating news to Jennifer’s nemesis Mary, they find her face down in the conservatory amid the flower pots and geraniums apparently having suffered a heart attack. Cue end titles.

Series 4 picks up immediately from that moment as the ambulance is called and they cart off Mary to the nearest hospital to be plonked in intensive care. As viewers we are not too worried, we know Marry doesn’t leave the series at this point, but it leaves her cherished sons – Edward, Brian and David – suffering large pangs of guilt that none of them were around when the attack happened. And so begins another run of thirteen episodes, the first originally airing in September 1974.

Naturally there is lots of fussing around the hospital and Mary, obviously considering she has not interfered in the affairs of others enough, rallies and makes plans to return to life outside of the hospital confines. And here we welcome a new series regular in the shape of the much talked about but not yet seen Mrs. Bill Riley, Gwen. Superbly played by Margaret Ashcroft as the sweet natured lady with some Yorkshire grit, she might well have stepped straight out of Renee Bradshaw’s shop over on the other channel during Coronation Street. It turns out that Gwen’s children have both left home and she is at a loose end. Wouldn’t you know it, suddenly there is a vacancy for a part time house keeper to look after Mary, and Gwen is in the firing line. Her husband doesn’t have time to dwell on this development, he is being head hunted to join the Board again.

Gwen Riley bows to the inevitable and waits on Mary

Since The Brothers started the narrative has been on the growth and expansion of Hammond Transport in the new free European market that has opened up. This time Brian is forging ahead with plans for Hammond Transport to be floated on the stock exchange and become a public company. Naturally Patrick O’Connell’s blustery, sharp tongued Edward is sailing into uncomfortable waters. He struggled to accept having to answer to a Board of fellow Directors. The thought of answering to shareholders literally sends him apoplectic. But the others are supportive of the idea so they go for help to city banker Martin Farrell (played by Murray Hayne). Farrell finds himself sitting on the Board in an attempt to steer Hammond’s through the complex waters of the stock exchange flotation. He is a widower and with Jennifer now feeling that Edward will never leave his sickly mother, a friendship develops between the pair. Again Edward gets snappy with his rival suitor. Jennifer Wilson does more of her ‘looking wistfully in the distance’ acting whenever problems arise.With another man sniffing around her, Jennifer has to decide where her loyalties lie.

Ted struggles to come to terms with Martin and Brian's proposals

Meanwhile Brian Hammond (Richard Easton in typically fine form) finally twigs of Ann’s affair with Nicholas Fox. Throughout the series, the battles between Easton and Hilary Tindall have delivered some of The Brothers finest moments. Ann has always been a handful, but this time she is adamant. She wants to be with Nicholas. Finally Brian snaps and he leaves her. But is this freedom what she expected it to be? Ann is an unpredictable creature, her moods and needs ever changing and modifying to her situation. Tindall continues to prove what a fine actress she is through the major upheavals in Ann’s life.

Nicholas and Ann: cosy now but for how long?

Youngest brother David (Robin Chadwick) is growing tired of lorries and trucking. As Sales Director he has been at the sharp end of attracting new business to Hammond Transport Services, however the idyllic home life with Jill (Gabrielle Drake) makes him re-appraise his lot. After a typical David tantrum over Jill buying him a new luxury Penthouse to live in with her personal fortune (oh the horror!), David sets his eyes on having a stab at being a racing driver. Naturally this is carte blanche for some nice location filming at a race track. A welcome respite from the studio bound battles that define the series.

Jill and Edward toast David's prowess on the track

As the flotation of HTS weaves it way through the city big wigs, we find the almost low key arrival of sci-fi legend Colin Baker as Paul Merroney. A young ambitious hot shot who already has much influence in the corridors of financial power. His confident and slightly smarmy demeanour were quickly to be noticed by producer Ken Riddington. Baker and Merroney would be invited back the following series as a full time cast member and a sensational one at that. Destined to rock the foundations of Hammond Transport. Can the current Directors spot this crocodile in their midst?

Merroney: one to watch!

As the company is floated on the stock market,  the results are completely unexpected.This ends in one of the best episodes of the entire series.“The Crucial Vote” has one of the Directors on the ropes, and the conclusion means that Hammond’s will never be the same again. It’s gripping stuff. Full credit goes to the entire cast for once again weaving 13 episodes of utterly believable clashes and recriminations which draw in the viewer. Modern television actors could well learn lots from this ensemble in diction and ability to convey truth in a performance. It is hard to think that Series 4 is the last bow for two players in the 1974 company. How will the series survive? It does, but you’ll wonder what the future holds. And inevitably you’ll yearn for the next volume in the series.

The final boardroom battle

One of the great qualities of The Brothers is that it is the gift that just keeps on giving. After four series, you would think the series showed signs of strain. A little wilting in evidence. But in fact it goes from strength to strength. A fusion between quality writing and assured performances marks this as standout television. In short, Series 4 is unmissable.

Jennifer gazing wistfully wondering how long she has to wait for the Series 5 DVD

ORDER THE COMPLETE SERIES 4 DVD HERE

 
 
 

THE BROTHERS SERIES 3 DVD REVIEW by Rob Cope

When we left the Hammonds at the end of the second series,  it was on a happy note. David had finally married Jill. Everybody loves a wedding but this is television drama land, and you know that happiness does not ratings make. 

By now Patrick O’Connell is well bedded in as eldest brother Edward, and all memories of Glyn Owen have been banished.  He is the quiet strength of the show,  his old school way of running the company often at odds with his younger brothers Brian (Richard Easton) and David (Robin Chadwick).  David is particularly concerned that the company is in hock to his wealthy wife Jill who has acted as guarantor for Hammond Transport following financial troubles.  He is even more concerned that he personally feels trapped by the arrangement, particularly with Julie Lane still hovering to entice him away from his wife.  She is now working as a photographer for an advertising agency,  who also employ former art tutor Nicholas Fox (Jonathan Newth).  Hammond’s are persuaded to give the agency a stab at increasing the profile of the company, with a view to them expanding in Europe. So whilst Julie continues her stalking of David,  Nicholas befriends Brian’s bored wife Ann, played so deliciously by Hilary Tindall.  It is a liaison that has unexpected consequences for them both.

Elsewhere Barbara Kingsley turns up with a man in tow and some unexpected news for her mother Jennifer – she is married.  Whats more her husband, Johnny Trent, knows that Barbara is an heiress. Both Jennifer and Edward smell a rat. But Edward has little time to dwell on such matters as Bill Riley’s lorry is hijacked during a trip back from the Continent. Pretty soon the finger of suspicion falls on Bill (Derek Benfield) himself.

The house style is firmly in place now for The Brothers, as we flit between the depot and the home lives of the various Company Directors.  The middle class lifestyle of the eponymous Brothers juxtaposed with the very working class nature of the haulage business. Despite the personal dramas, the show is always at its best during the battles in the Boardroom.  And this is particularly exemplified in Series 3 with both Brian and David eyeing the Chairman’s position currently occupied by their elder brother.

This third series is the strongest yet, tensions are running high as expansion plans make taking risks with the business a neccessity. The regular cast are all on top form,  lead by Jean Anderson who surveys everything from the comfort of her living room, giving her snooty disapproval to anybody who might not be suitable company for her three boys. Look out though for guest appearances by future Howards’ Way alumni Stephen Yardley and Jan Howard. And also for Jennifer Wilson’s real life husband Brian Peck in the role of a none too accommodating Bank Manager. 

For those who are already following the saga on DVD this latest release will bring more twists and turns,  but this is a good jumping on point too for those less familiar with the set up. Despite its obviously dated look, the show remains as addictive now as it was back in 1974 when Series 3 first went to air. A timely reminder of why millions at home, and many more in Europe, sat glued to their screens for five years. Pour yourself a whiskey, light a sophisticated cigarette and wallow in this slice of yesteryear. 

YOU CAN ORDER THIS DVD HERE

 
 
 
 
 
 
Thanks go to the Potteries Prydonians - Steve Worman and Paul Wood - for their help, Ron Brunwin for supplying artwork and Garry Jones for being a regular stalwart of the news section.
Extra special thanks go to the mighty Colin Baker himself for casting his mind back and helping catalogue his career.