In 1978 Patrick Malahide appeared as investigative reporter Colin Anderson in the BBC-Scotland series The Standard. I posted before about how good it sounds, which you can read here. Well, now we (RFodchuk and I) have finally watched the first episode Golden Boy. Sadly, there don’t appear to be any other episodes available and this one has a visible time stamp, but (aside from the time stamp) it looks and sounds excellent.
RF: I was pleasantly surprised by how good the picture and colour quality was. It looked far better than some “Minder” episodes I’ve seen!
The Standard S01E01: Golden Boy
Admin: If the first episode is anything to go by, we can safely say it is a very good series. It wastes no time in getting to the point; the acting is excellent and the story is interesting. It fully deserves a DVD release!
RF: I totally agree. Seeing the first episode just whetted my appetite to see the rest, especially after all those enticing episode descriptions on the Action TV page. If they’re all as well written as the first, I’m in.
Admin: The Scottish Daily Standard is a struggling newspaper hemorrhaging money, hampered by over cautious, old fashioned editor James Kendal (Gerry Slevin) and an overzealous union head (albeit not overzealous in his reporting) Alex Forsythe (Tom Watson) who is more interested in calling mandatory chapel (union) meetings.
RF: Our first look at The Standard shows us (1) that they still have paperboys selling them – okay, maybe that wasn’t all that uncommon at that point in time, and (2) that it’s featuring a rather staid and boring headline, which gives us most of the background we need to understand their current situation. I’ve also never seen so many bakelite phones and manual typewriters in my life! 😉
Admin: Enter Englishman “Golden Boy” Peter Dawson (Neil Stacy) who is sent from London with proposals to either close The Standard for good or to invest £5 million for modernization. But, that will also mean changing the paper’s direction by intensifying the reporting and letting some people go.
RF: I realize Dawson is the nominal “Golden Boy” (is there a possibility he was intended to be the series focus?), but I wonder if that title couldn’t belong to Colin Anderson as well… foreshadowing the role he’s going to have in saving The Standard.
Admin: Colin is the Platinum Boy. 😉
RF: …which means he’ll have to invest in a silvery-white shirt and tie, unless he already has them. 😉
Admin: Dawson has a bit of an ally with news editor Felicity Grant (Collette O’Neil). She is a go getter and longs to give the paper bite. She was with a paper called The Newcastle Argus which Dawson was able to turn around to profit, but not without cutting a few jobs. He admires Felicity and wants her on his side.
RF: Felicity uses an alarming amount of hairspray, even by Rooolllahh Lenska standards! I’m also bemused by her Seventies smock fashions. 😉 We’re told several times, by several characters, what an utter rarity it is that The Standard employs a female news editor (and such an attractive one!, as they take pains to point out), without the slightest hint of irony. However, despite this one tiny smidgen of progressiveness, The Standard appears to be well-mired in the practices of the past. In a later scene, Felicity is in favour of “splashing” a story about an industrial fire that suggests something fishy at the company, but managing editor Kendal balks at the idea. He really doesn’t want The Standard getting into anything sticky or being “[turned] into a campaigning paper again” because it’s not their “style” any more.
Meet Colin Anderson
Admin: As mentioned, Alex Forsythe is more interested in union matters than in reporting. He is at a press conference where industrialist Jeremy Longmuir (Jerome Willis) will be discussing plans for factory expansion. Colin Anderson, hot shot investigative reporter working for a paper called The Chronicle, is there also.
Admin: Clad in a bright red shirt, a necktie to match and a long blue coat, Colin stands out of the crowd. He greets Alex and is met with little enthusiasm. Colin reveals that he knows The Standard’s proprietors are ready to pull the plug being “cheesed off with disputes.” Alex plays dumb. Colin: “I thought you were the father of the chapel?” Alex reckons because of that the media company would make sure he was the last person to know. “Like me to make some inquiries for you,” asks Colin playfully. Alex calls him a “snide bastard” for his helpfulness.
RF: Apparently Colin thinks you need a touch of red to go with red, sharing some sartorial sensibilities with other characters of Mr. Malahide’s. 😉 But hey, no one can argue that he doesn’t know how to match. Seriously, he’s the most brightly clad person in the room (and perhaps the best dressed as well in a sea of polyester), giving us an idea of his brash nature. And he is incredibly, delightfully brash as well as completely confident and outgoing. He’s got his ear to the ground, knowing all the Standard dirt even before its employees do. Like a certain other individual, he’s also good at reading people’s characters, knowing just where Alex is most vulnerable.
Admin: A young man, who Colin cheekily refers to as Andy Pandy, goes to the microphone to say that Longmuir has been delayed because of electric difficulties with his plane. We already knew that because “Golden Boy” Peter Dawson was traveling with him at the time which means he’s late for his meeting with The Standard.
RF: The reporters – an exclusively male group, of course – are mollified by the offer of free drinks, though. Colin’s already availing himself. 😉
Thank you Mr. Anderson
Admin: Alex and his chapel meeting can’t wait for Longmuir to arrive, and he tells Colin he has to leave. Colin is incredulous, “What the hell for? You’re on a story.” Chapel meeting. Colin: “Now, that’s the problem with you activists, you will keep putting the job second. Why do you all take it all so seriously?” Alex gives an up the workers speech. Colin thinks that’s cute, “Big, bloated capitalists grinding it in the face of the poor workers, hey? Grow up. We’re not in the 19th century anymore.” Colin looks every inch the capitalist himself with his cigar, smirk and drink but don’t worry, there is more to him than that.
RF: Alex and Colin embody a clash between new and old school reporting, and Colin enjoys needling Alex about his antiquated ways. They’re both idealistic in their own fashion, but Colin would always prioritize getting a story before the mundane business of chapel meetings. He’s not worried about anything but getting the best deal for himself. You’re right that Colin looks every inch the capitalist (he must be a very successful reporter!), but his ability to dig up uncomfortable facts and use them as weapons suggests he’s hardly a friend to them.
Admin: Alex asks Colin to cover the story for him. “Cover it for you? You’ve got to be joking.” Colin holds firm, he has his own job. Alex leaves with a disgusted, “Thank you Mr. Anderson, good day.” Colin gives the retreating figure an interesting look. I think he feels guilt at letting Alex down.
RF: It’s an interesting little scene. I have the feeling Colin refused to cover it because he knows The Standard is a dying paper and he didn’t want his name or reputation associated with it, even in a tangential way. Or perhaps he wants to maintain an image of independence, since once he does one favour, he might be asked to do others. I’m not sure if it’s so much guilt as second thoughts that we see, though. Maybe it’s even a wee bit of pity?
Admin: It could be pity. He seemed surprised that Forsythe took it the way he did. I completely agree that Colin isn’t the sort who wants to garner a reputation for giving out freebies.
The Highest Paid Reporter in Scotland
Admin: Eventually Mr. Longmuir shows up and Colin approaches him. Longmuir has heard of The Chronicle, describing it as “very lively indeed” which suggests he’s wary of it. He asks if Colin is on the industrial side. Colin: “I’m on my side. I cover what I choose.” He asks if he might have a word with Mr. Longmuir after the conference, Longmuir’s assistant (the one Colin referred to as Andy Pandy) tries to say no but Longmuir says it depends on what it is about. “Development grants.” Longmuir gets Colin is not one to be fobbed off or messed about with and agrees.
RF: Plainly, Colin’s not cowed by status or prestige, which is a handy thing in an investigative reporter. He sizes up Longmuir before the two of them meet, then goes right in for the kill when he asks for an interview. His “development grants” comment tells Longmuir that he’s landed on something juicy and potentially damaging, as does the fact he doesn’t want any other reporters in on it. Longmuir looks genuinely dismayed for a second or two, realizing Colin’s making him an offer he can’t refuse, then he appears to settle for a damage control strategy. Colin has an interesting look of calculation after Longmuir agrees to meet; perhaps he’s considering how best to dissect him.
Admin: Later Longmuir meets with Peter Dawson and asks him if he can help get Colin off his back. Since Colin writes for a rival paper, Peter says he can’t guarantee anything, but he’ll try. When Longmuir leaves, Felicity Grant arrives and Peter asks her about Colin. He is the highest paid reporter in Scotland and gets to choose his own stories. Peter isn’t at all interested in getting Colin off Longmuir’s back, but rather in getting him on board with The Standard. Felicity likes the idea, but she fears editor James Kendal won’t.
RF: Colin has obviously managed to throw quite a scare into Longmuir if he’s asking Dawson for help in calling Colin off; Longmuir even admits that Colin could “do [him] and the company a lot of harm,” describing Colin as “a clever beggar and damned persistent” (probably an understatement, although an accurate one). Dawson plays both sides against the middle by agreeing to “do what [he] can” to get Colin off Longmuir’s back when his real intention is to offer Colin a job, so it seems Colin isn’t the only ruthless one. Dawson’s more interested in revamping The Standard than placating the likes of Dawson, and to do that he needs the best of the best; namely, Colin with his knack for “muckraking” and “digging up stories with some bite to them”. Colin and Dawson together are everything James Kendal fears the most.
Admin: Peter secures a meeting with Colin and asks him what he thinks of The Standard. Colin compares it to the dodo, “attractive enough in its own way” but “no bloody good to anybody except the sailors who ate it.” Awwww, poor dodo. Peter hints that it might be worth saving The Standard, but Colin points out that he is the highest paid reporter in Scotland and gets to choose his own stories. “Why should I want to move?”
RF: Another Standard reporter, Archie (no last name given) happens to be in Dawson’s hotel (maybe the only one in Glasgow? 😉 ) when Colin arrives to meet with Dawson, so he knows that Dawson’s planning something. Colin has switched from red to a fetching moss green ensemble for the occasion, complete with floral pattern/striped tie. I swear I could watch this show just to watch him work his way through the colour spectrum.
Admin: Colin does have some very snazzy outfits. I also enjoy studying them. He looks great in bright colors.
RF: Colin seems to have caught wind of Dawson’s intentions straight away, saying flatly that he thinks The Standard’s time is done and he has no intentions of saving it. He’s realistic and logical about the situation – he already has near complete independence at The Chronicle with what seems to be great pay. He also appears completely unimpressed by Dawson’s prestige or reputation, lounging on his couch in a completely relaxed, insouciant fashion. Dawson’s leather hotel couch is so smooth and shiny that I had no idea how Colin managed to lounge on it without sliding straight off. 😉
Admin: Peter asks what if Fleet Street beckoned. Colin laughs at that. “That’s the trouble with you bloody English, you think the world stops at Carlisle. Why should I want to move to London? London is dying on its feet.” Like the dodo, I guess. Colin is enjoying himself, the scamp, “People have no use for your paper anymore; we can all afford to use soft, pink tissue paper nowadays.” Zing!
RF: Colin gets all the best lines. He’s sharp-tongued and very witty, needling Dawson much the same way he did Alex. 😀 However, this scene convinces me that he was actually pitying Alex at the press conference, if this is his honest opinion of The Standard. And plainly Colin wouldn’t be tempted by a job in London either, if that’s what Dawson was planning as enticement. He seems to be very comfortable in his Scottish environment.
Admin: Colin is done playing (pity, he’s really funny), “Look, you didn’t ask me here to be rude about your newspaper.” Peter says that Longmuir was complaining about him. When asked if he would lay off Longmuir, Colin’s reply is “No chance.” Peter is impressed, “Jeremy Longmuir is big enough to look after himself, but the man who can put the wind up him has got to be worth meeting.” Colin is very flattered by that and reconsiders his dismissive attitude. “Could I have another drink?”
RF: Colin looks cynically unimpressed when Dawson mentions Longmuir; he probably expected Dawson to make such a request all along. To his credit, Dawson doesn’t look surprised when Colin refuses to lay off Longmuir – Colin wouldn’t have the reputation he has if he gave in to such demands. But he does appear to be susceptible to flattery (and free drinks). Dawson later tells Felicity that Colin’s weaknesses are that he’s “greedy and ambitious”, tendencies he’ll use to get Colin onto The Standard’s side. I do wonder what other incentives Dawson offered to get him to agree.
Admin: Ultimately, they agree to try and save The Standard. Peter is made Managing Director which upsets Kendal, so Peter assures him that there are no plans to turn The Standard into a smutty, muck-racking rag. Instead he wants to add “bite” to the reporting by hiring a first-rate investigative reporter. “Like Colin Anderson, I suppose,” moans Kendal. That’s right. And his first story is going to be a corruption scandal about how Longmuir got the development grants. Ha-ha at Longmuir.
RF: The final scenes are an aligning of old versus new with Dawson, Felicity, and Colin (of course) on the “new” side opposing Alex and Kendal on the “old”. Alex, whose role as union steward has meant he hasn’t gotten along with Kendal from time to time, even describes their temporary truce as a sort of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. Colin might have Dawson’s backing (presumably Dawson offered him a huge pile of cash to leave The Chronicle, which should keep him in solid colour shirts for a while), but he’s going to have an uphill battle getting through all those dodos.
Admin: This was a great opener and we really hope to be able to see more, or rather all, of this series. It is very good and Colin Anderson is exquisite. Patrick Malahide gives him edge, pointed wit, determination and sheer confidence. He is bold and cocky but you see there is a moral fiber to his assuredness as evidenced by his honesty and insistence only cover stories that interest him. And, of course, he looks determined. His level stare, confident grin, and loud, but not outlandish, wardrobe immediately mark him as a man not to be trifled with. It would be a wonderful thing if the BBC were to give this program a full-series DVD release.
RF: I totally agree, this is a great episode that only makes me want to see more. The plot is tightly written and involving and the dialogue (especially Colin’s) is sharply witty. Colin is easily the most interesting character in the show, and Mr. Malahide gives him an engaging brashness, intensity, and pointed intelligence combined with an utterly fearless, irreverent personality that makes Colin a deadly threat to the status quo. I really liked that the script showed us Colin in action, letting us see how he earned his reputation, instead of merely telling us that he’s the “best of the best”. His amazing wardrobe is just a bonus. 😉 I would love to see the rest of the series; I want to find out what happens to Colin next! The BBC should definitely remaster “The Standard” for DVD release.