Norman Stone (director)
Network on Air (studio)
26 June 2017 (released)
This BBC movie was first screened in 1988 as part of the channel’s acclaimed Screen Two strand and stars Lee Remick as the steely yet seductive boss of a dubious new TV-Channel poised to launch in the UK. Faded and unhappy former TV personality Dirk Bogarde is the unlucky man trapped in her clutches.
When this film was made in 1988 the world of satellite television was still in its infancy, so from that point of view THE VISION could be looked upon as something almost futuristic – of course, since then countless satellite channels and corrupt and ruthless media manipulation have long become a reality. James Marriner (Dirk Bogarde) is a washed-up former TV personality called ‘Gentle Jim’ reduced to appear at supermarket product launches and similar events. He’s also unhappily married to his wife Helen (Eileen Atkins), a somewhat mousy woman and devout Christian. The couple have a teenage daughter Jo (Helena Bonham Carter) who is a college student with a mind of her own.
One day, James is approached by Grace Gardner (Lee Remick), the elegant, manipulative and strong-willed head of a new American Television Station called PC – the Peoples Channel – now out to launch in the UK and six other European countries. Although initially sceptical and also not exactly religious, James eventually accepts the offer as the channel’s weekly TV-host after much persuasion from Gardner – a woman whose only love seems to be the mighty Lord and her job.
But after the first transmission James grows uneasy as he suspects other, darker motives behind the family-friendly façade of the new channel. After a confrontation with Gardner he makes it clear that he wishes to resign despite her threat revealing the People Channel’s true agenda will hold retribution in store for him. Not easily intimidated, James resigns nonetheless… with devastating consequences…
Never one to be fooled, Gardner and Co. did their research on James and found out that he’s been having an affair with his former secretary for many years – something he’s managed to keep secret not only from his wife but also from the public view. As an act of retribution, Gardner, who succeeded in obtaining photographic evidence of James’ affair, makes sure that the picture is makes the front page in every British tabloid – the scandal is perfect, his reputation destroyed. So is his family life, or what has been left of it. James’ lover, unable to cope with it all, commits suicide. Now he’s planning revenge on the very channel that destroyed his life and in order to succeed he will need to prove that he too can be just as manipulative as Grace Gardner…
This is a well-acted piece which not only attacks the world of tabloids but the world of so-called televangelists and their often hypocritical agendas. Lee Remick in particular delivers a stand-out performance as a woman who will stop at almost nothing in order to achieve her goal.