Created by Nigel Williams
”How are you going to find out about anything when you couldn’t see me and Saul in front of your eyes?”
— the soon-to-be ex-wife is not impressed with Charlie’s detective skills
Struggling, middle-aged private detective CHARLIE ALEXANDER, the “hero” of the 1984 British mini-series Charlie, written by Nigel Williams, has a lot of exes in his CV: he’s an ex-student, an ex-leftie, an ex-journalist and an ex-soldier. He also tried writing for a while. And it looks like he’s about to become an ex-husband — his wife, Susan, has taken off with a man named Saul, with whom she’d been having an affair for quite a while. And she’s taken the kids.
Meanwhile, working on a messy domestic, Charlie stumbles across the corpse of a stranger, apparently beaten to death, in a housing project in a racially-mixed neighbourhood. The only identification may lie in an address book found on the body. Problem is, the address has Charlie’s name in it. From there it’s off to the races, as Charlie and the murdered man’s widow are drawn into a nasty tangle of union politics, missing pension funds and murder, as they (according to the blurb on the novelization, also written by Williams) stumble “through a series of alternately comic and dangerous encounters to a tense and ironic climax.”
By most accounts, a gritty, well-rendered view of Thatcher-era England, with a great cast. Keep an eye out for it.
This was writer, director and playwright Nigel Williams’ fourth novel. His first, My Life Closed Twice, won the Somerset Maugham Award, and he’s since had quite a long successful career, particularly in British television. He’s probably best known for the 2005 TV drama Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren, and for which he received an Emmy Award nomination for his script.
But don’t let that scare you away — among his other works worth checking out are the blackly comic (and bestselling) The Wimbledon Poisoner Trilogy, wherein a fat, schlubby lawyer begins to fancy himself a serial killer, and Unfaithfully Yours, a 2013 farce built around four elderly couples and Orlando “Roland” Gibbons, a private detective, hired to find out who’s boinking someone’s husband.
- ”Charlie” moves at its own sometimes lumbering, sometimes confusing pace, but it keeps hitting enough notes of unsettling authenticity to keep us tagging along eagerly.”
— The New York Times (August 5, 1987)
(1984, ITV/Central Television)
4 60-minute episodes
Premiere: March 26, 1984
Written by Nigel Williams
Directed by Martin Campbell
Produce by Graham Benson
Starring David Warner as CHARLIE ALEXANDER
Frank Windsor as Harry Ainsworth
and Marion Bailey as Susan Alexander
Also starring Patrick Malahide, Maggie Steed, Geoffrey Hutchings, Michael Aldridge, Clive Merrison
- “Charlie Is My Darling” (March 26, 1984)
“In the Days of His Youth” (March 28, 1984)
“In Union Is Strength” (April 2, 1984)
“If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem” (April 4, 1984)
- Charlie (1984; by Nigel Williams) | Buy this book
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- April 22, 2023
The Bottom Line: Rough and tumble ex-leftie, ex-journalist, ex-soldier and soon-to-be ex-husband private eye tangles with murder, corruption and Thatcher-era politics in this acclaimed British TV mini-series.