This series deals with the second series of novels by Anthony Trollope that people recall when thinking of his novels. They are the six novels making up the story of Plantagenet Palliser's political rise and fall from Can You Forgive Her" through "The Prime Minister" and "The Duke's Children". Plantagenet (Philip Latham) is the nephew and heir of the Duke of Omnium and Gatherum (Roland Culver) who is England's richest nobleman (his estates, by the way, are in Barset). We watch Plantagenet (a Whig, and something of a currency reformer - he is trying to push a decimal currency in 19th Century England, so he is a century ahead of his time there) pursues Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) in the first story, where she is tempted by a more raffishly attractive lover Burgo Fitzgerald. After their marriage, the story turns attention to Phineas Finn, "the Irish Member"(Donal McCann), and his sexual political problems with two women, one of whom is Madame Max Gestler (Barbara Murray), the girlfriend of the Duke of Omnium. The third novel dealt with Lizzie Eustace (Sarah Badel), her romances with Lord George (Terence Alexander), Reverend Emilius (Anthony Ainsley), and the inept Lord Fawn (Derek Jacobi), and her plotting to maintain possession of "the Eustace Diamonds" (Trollope spoofs Wilkie Collins here). The fourth novel deals with again with Finn (the novel was "Phineas Redux"), and his final choice for a wife, as well as his trial for murder (the murder of a political rival - the real murderer is revealed by a witness who is from Bohemia and has to be cross-examined in Latin). The fifth novel follows Plantagenet (now Duke of Omnium) reaching the top of Disraeli's "greasy pole" (he is Prime Minister, but in a minority coalition government), and discovering that he can't get his favorite currency reform through. "The Duke's Children" dealt with the problems of Plantagenet and Glencora with their children, in particular their son Lord Silverbridge (Anthony Andrews), and how the family is brought together by the death of Glencora.
Trollope's strength was in being honest and painstaking in trying to describe the reality of the world. If you read "The Eustace Diamonds", Lizzie has gotten physical control of the jewelry when married to the previous Lord Eustace. But was this just temporary as long as her husband was alive, or was it permanent? There is a long chapter in the novel dealing with the British laws regarding family heirlooms that was based on legal advice Trollope sought from a solicitor to make the novel as accurate as possible. He was one of the few writers of his day to go to such elaborate lengths.
That chapter is not done in detail in the series, but the stories keep quite close to what Trollope did. The series shows the political world of that day (and really of any day) where the personalities are mixed, and you may need to work with really obnoxious types. In "Can You Forgive Her?" Glencora gets to meet a political figure who is on the lowest level of the Whig Party. The man is not a bad man, but he happens to get on her bad side. Plantagenet tries to correct this misunderstanding of him, but he does not succeed. When, in a general election, the poor man loses, Glendora celebrates!
Bigotry appears in various guises, most notably in the career of Finn, and his Irish heritage (he meets with contempt from the newspapers and some of the leaders for that reason). His need for a wealthy wife eventually crosses his path with Madame Max, who is Jewish. Yet she is tolerated more than Phineas - she has a protector in her lover the Duke of Omnium.
For a good introduction to the series of novels, the series of episodes could not be beat. Well acted, and well produced, it was a good introduction or sequel to "The Barset Chronicles" (which was produced in the 1980s, but those novels were printed first. If you can see it, you will agree to my high opinion on it.
By the way, at one point one of the characters is in jail, and is visited by his friend Dolly Longstaffe (Donald Pickering). Longstaffe is looking at some books that have been sent to the character, and reads the titles like "The American Senator", "An Old Mam's Love", and smiles, and says "I see the old fellow's still turning them out!". Yes - the "old fellow" is Anthony Trollope.