10 March 2002 | Philby-3
More good tricks from "F U" but a lower score
This mini-series is the second in the three adapted by Andrew Davies from Michael Dobbie's books. It is less of a romp than the first, `House of Cards', in which Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) gets to the top of the slippery pole by various underhand means; in fact he is now secure as prime minister and leader of the conservative party. He has, however, a problem with the king, a Prince Charles-type figure, who is not prepared to be a mere figurehead but aspires to be the conscience of the nation. This of course simply will not do and Francis and the king are soon on a collision course. The result is inevitable, and once again `F U' leaves bodies in his wake.
The king's angst is wonderfully realised by Michael Keaton, though he does seem a bit intelligent for a member of the present British royal family. Again, the supporting actors are delightful, with Colin Jeavons, the man born to play Uriah Heep, creepily unctious and then coldly furious as Stamper the Whip, who Francis rejects for higher office. Diane Fletcher as Elizabeth Urquhart continues smoothly in her Lady Macbeth role and there are some great clown characters such as the two princesses (not a million miles from Diana and Fergie) and the gallant Sir Bruce, editor of the `Daily Muckracker,' played with boozy enthusiasm by David Ryall.
Towards the end the show weakens a bit, and the final explosions are rather contrived. It is interesting, though, how an able, ruthless character like `F U' attracts supporters there are plenty of people more than happy to carry out his orders, like Corder, his security man (Nick Brimble). The King, on the other hand, is supported by nice people, but like him, they become victims.
The relationship between hereditary monarch and elected prime minister is an important one, and Dobbie has to be commended for drawing attention to it; his bleak conclusion is that the King, who once could do no wrong, can now do no good. That's a pity, for someone needs to exercise some supervision over the `F U's' of this world. Once again, this is good entertainment, if not such a romp as the first series.