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  • The previous long-winded review completely misses the point about this series.

    Andrea Newman first wrote this story as a novel in the early Seventies, and she has written many other novels and TV series on the same theme - that of the "generation gap" being manipulated by sexually active teenagers. The author is not writing from a "male" or "conservative" point of view, she has simply observed a lot of families and individuals under stress and accurately described a lot of the social neuroses of the Seventies,

    (As a matter of fact, I heard Andrea Newman on the radio a few years ago saying that she also wanted to mirror the classic Greek plays such as Oedipus, which would explain some of the more lurid activities in her stories - men jumping into bed with their mothers-in-law, etc.) Certainly the sexual content (without actual nudity) in this series went well beyond anything seen on British TV before this point, but the sex scenes are realistic, not absurd fantasies. Maybe this is why the series made such a huge impact on the viewers. To even hint at incestuous feelings makes most viewers feel uncomfortable, and this had never been implied on TV before (and, come to think of it, few 21st century dramas would dare do this now).

    I was very impressed by the acting in this series; this was made back in the days when most TV drama resembled stage plays performed in front of video cameras, and most of the cast are very skilled theatre actors. An exception is James Aubrey, whose "American" accent is hopeless - shouldn't the director have told him not to bother?

    The overall message of the series - or at least the message that I perceived - seems to be that sex makes everyone unhappy. Which is rather surprising for the Seventies, but then good writers are people who don't just copy their contemporaries, but have the guts to say what they really think.
  • I first saw this as a small child (progressive parents or irresponsible ones? You be the judge) and have revisited it recently on DVD. Well...! What a carry on! What a palaver! What an outrage! What a great, glorious, steaming pile of melodramatic bilge.

    I dare say that its upmarket target audience were flattered to see "their lives" being portrayed with such candour. Maybe so, but what they were actually getting was little more than a dramatised Woman's Own article produced, perhaps inevitably, in the style of Crossroads. Oh alright, not Woman's Own. Observer Sunday supplement to be fair.

    Bouquet of Barbed Wire is a soap. Make no mistake. I expected something a little more philosophically lethal, perhaps along the lines of Potter or Pinter in "Betrayal" mode. Alas no. This was LWT mainstream peak-time television viewing, not a night at the Royal Court. Does that make it rubbish? No, not completely. I rather enjoyed it for it's slow, single-minded approach. I like verbose scripts and this had dialogue by the ton... hours and hours of it. And more hours.

    Writer Andrea Newman displays a gift for reproducing the broken speech rhythms of people under intense emotional pressure. Other times she stubs her toe on the dramatic conventions of soap opera ie. spelling out EXACTLY what the characters are thinking and feeling at all times so as to not confuse an ITV audience. This is a prime example of over-writing, typified not only by the characters' continuous declarations of their states of minds, but also by the occasional "thought voice-over" - a device as blatantly literal-minded as it was crudely achieved. These are emotional shades of grey painted in very gaudy colours.

    Such lapses of taste were, doubtless, symptoms of insecurity on the part of the producers - a lack of faith in their audience. Elsewhere, the dialogue is quite entertaining although perhaps not for the intended reason, and every character seems to be a tad more eloquent than is credible. These people should write novels!

    Bouquet of Barbed Wire was a huge hit in 1976. White middle-aged, middle-class swingers and bed-hoppers had rarely been brought under such close scrutiny on UK TV. Yet, for all its supposed sexual candour (hints of incest and the endless confessions of sado-masochism) it's a deeply conservative piece at heart. The naughty girls and naughty boys get what they deserve in the end - misery and death. That'll teach 'em. It pretends not to pass judgement on the characters, but, really, their comeuppance is judgement enough.

    The serial's sexual politics would rightly enrage even a mild feminist then and now. For example, a major character (pregnant) is beaten half to death by her violent husband and the police are NEVER mentioned, not even by the doctors who treat her! The assault is put down to everyday domestic strife. And besides, the couple have a sado-masochistic relationship, so that's OK then. Sorry but this degree of complacency is inexcusable, even by Seventies standards.

    Elsewhere, Newman has her leading lady proclaim as fact that what all women secretly want is to be slapped around by their men. Not badly enough to end up in hospital, mind you, but enough to make it exciting. Uh-huh. I wonder if "Andrea Newman" isn't a pseudonym. Could there be an "Andrew Newman" who's fooled us all? Abysmal.

    So, what's good about it? It's ludicrousness. Viewed by contemporary audiences, a lot of it is enjoyable on a trash basis. There are moments of unintended hilarity only appreciable thirty years hence eg. The leading lady's off-screen lover (a very lusty chap) is called Sven Erickson. I kid you not. Plus, our dysfunctional TV family's name is Manson. Geddit? And of course there's Frank Finley's wardrobe - a nightmare torrent of Burtons menswear. Frank's ties are... well, Bouquet Of Barbed Wire features the first known instance of a tie wearing a man (old joke but never more applicable).

    The performers are actually damn good. Finley plays it for real, and Susan Penhaligon is authentically unsettling as his neurotic daughter. Everyone else is up to scratch.

    Finally and sadly, I'm beginning to wonder if the golden age of television was all that golden. I've revisited quite a few of these old 70s shows on DVD lately, and a lot of them are actually quite bland, or, as in Bouquet, ridiculous. Incisiveness and credible emotional depth were not necessarily the norm. Perhaps writers like Dennis Potter really were one-offs after all.
  • zzapper-225 February 2003
    This TV series exposed the sexual tensions behind an apparently normal British middle class family. Mother and daughter enjoying being knocked about by their lovers. The mother having an affair with the surgeon saving the life of her husband. The series was a big thing at the time, and began the requirement to have more & more spicy story lines.
  • kayinheaven16 August 2010
    I bought this and also another bouquet on video some years ago for purely sentimental reasons and because i loved the haunting music and picture of a young girl running which reminded myself of me as a child in the opening credits .I also have a memory of watching this as i babysat my nephew,it says everything about the time it was made i was 15 at the time and at an age where i was captivated by the manson family exploits . However 34 years on i much prefer to watch another bouquet as the performances seem so much more natural , the original series seems wooden and at times cringworthy even for its middle class setting, although one has to say the domestic violence scenes between pru and gavin are still shocking even for these times , the way manson appears to be in love with his daughter is so strong that its almost repulsive and you long for someone to actually accuse him , esp his wife and her 2 beleaguered twin boys . All things considered though i wouldn't be without these 2 series for there trip down memory lane .
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I agree with Siobhan Rouse -Disturbingly convincing.

    Although the first reviewer makes some salient points regarding the writer's complacency towards the violence during Prue and Gavin's marriage. Even in the follow up series: 'Another Bouquet', you have Gavin once again confessing to hitting another woman. The response (from Cass-his mother in law, a supposedly academic woman) is a sigh and an 'oh no.. I haven't got time for this'. Hardly the appropriate response to a wife beater.

    However, this was an enjoyable drama and does hold its head way above 'soap opera' performances. I remember watching this when I was about 8, but many of the scenes had stuck in my memory; so just goes to show the power of TV, even then. I agree that the script was, for the best part, over written, and I longed for a character who didn't speak in that text book upper middle class accent. Surely even the Mansons crossed paths with the 'common people'. The Oedipus element of the drama made the series in my opinion. I have no idea how I wasn't completely screwed up after watching both of these series. What an amoral lot! Definitely worth buying the DVD.
  • big_grin00717 October 2006
    This was the very first TV drama I'd ever seen. I remember watching it on TV as my marriage disintegrated about me. so, now, whenever I see or hear a reference to this TV series, I get a huge "flashback"reminding me of all the things I lived thru' back then. And isn't this a nostalgic series? I must admit, that even though 70's TV is generally horrific( esp. American sitcoms) British TV managed to "hold its own". This means you (one) can watch "BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE" without cringing. I'd welcome comments from like-minded viewers of old Brit-Drama series. Cheers( and to see Susan Penhaligon in Emmerdale in Australia, thanks to Austar/ cable TV is brill...!!) and looking forward to hearing from you "watching re-runs of "A GOOD LIFE" is almost "heaven on a stick", n'est-ce-pas?