It promised fun, sex, scandal and rich people - particularly men -
behaving badly. A Dance to The Music of Time, based on Anthony Powell’s
12-volume epic, follows a clutch of school chums from the 20s until the
early 70s. With a lavish multi-million pound budget and a cast of
diehard luvvies such as John Gielgud, Edward Fox and Alan Bennett, how
could it fail?
Channel 4 has been busy building up to the ’event’, with lots of
programme trailers and posters, creating the same anticipation that it
did with its tortuous drama-thriller, Melissa, which failed to impress
audiences in May. Perhaps this was a bad sign.
The first episode had a naked woman opening the door to her lover and
then dancing, again naked, with him in the closing scene - and that’s
about as clear as it gets. To try and sum up (someone has to): this
first part set up the characters, following them from school (Eton, of
course) to University and then through careers and marriages (all
The narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, played by pretty boy, James Purefoy,
looks on in various states of surprise and condemnation, as he bumps
into his pals from school, including the hapless Widmerpool, who
progresses from victim to the controlling force. But with different
actors playing the same people at different ages, I got very confused,
although Widmerpool was one of the few constants, looking 50 when he was
supposed to be 15.
In A Dance to the Music of Time, the only other constants were bouts of
dancing and bursts of music. Time played a confusing role, as we
staggered through five-year chunks, guessing at characters’ ages by the
number of jobs or wives they had got through.
I appreciate Channel 4 is keeping its promise to invest in home-grown
drama, and so I will watch the next episode in the hope the likes of
Miranda Richardson will bring depth to the story.
Anna Griffiths, a Campaign media reporter, is ready to reach for the