The production of Trollope’s great political series of novels was plagued with problems, an energy crisis, strikes, a three day week, and a ban on broadcasting after 10.30pm.
Following the success of The Forsyte Saga in 1967, Simon Raven suggested to Lennox Phillips, script editor of BBC2 classic serials, that they might consider adapting the Palliser novels. The project was agreed, and from the summer of 1967 to until 1973 Simon Raven worked on the script for the mammoth project.
The series was produced by Martin Lisemore, who decided that to give The Pallisers overall unity Simon Raven should write all the episodes and that only two directors should work on them. Filming the 26 episodes of the series took 13 months, and resulted in over 20 hours of television drama. Simon Raven’s script is full of true Trollopian wit and banter and the huge cast includes such rising stars as Derek Jacobi, Penelope Keith, June Whitfield, Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons.
Haley Mills was originally cast to play Lady Glencora, but shortly before filming started had to pull out. Susan Hampshire, star of the BBC’s 1967 The Forsyte Saga and Vanity Fair, stepped in with only weeks to go and gave a wonderful performance as the vivacious and spirited heiress Lady Glencora.
The Pallisers was scheduled to run every Wednesday night from January to July1974, but despite the great script and cast, it did not achieve the same success as The Forsyte Saga. This was partly down to bad luck. The series was transmitted at the height of a winter of terrible industrial relations, with a three-day week, power cuts, industrial action at the BBC and even a ban on broadcasting after 10.30pm. Filming the final episodes was hit by strikes, and concluding two episodes were screened five months late. Even the publicity was hit by problems. The 84 page full colour tie-in edition of Radio Times should have been available at the start of the series in January, but was delayed by six weeks.
Despite the production problems, The Pallisers rewards viewers with a gloriously produced, handsome production, with wonderful sets and beautiful costumes. The script is witty, the story includes a heady mixture of love, politics, passion and power and is populated with a magnificent gallery of characters.