Important Television

Having watched, yet again, Granada’s 1984 production The Jewel in the Crown, based on Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, I find myself wondering whether TV is ever again going to attain such heights. I am astounded by the series’ relevance now in its portrayal of how empire unravels; of what happens to outdated structures conceived to prop up ideals in which no one any more believes; of the sheer unprincipledness of ambition; of the intractability of racial and class prejudice, whether born of stupidity or unacknowledged passion; of the unlikely appearance in dungheaps of flowers of courtesy; of India’s complex fascination. The New York Times wrote, 37 years ago, ‘The Jewel in the Crown is not only engrossing television. It is important television, a model of what the medium can do.’ I’d say that still holds.