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AFTER THEY WERE FAMOUS: THE BROTHERS REUNION

Special thanks to Jennifer Wilson & Brian Peck for their help with this feature

A special edition of the retrospective series "After They Were Famous" was broadcast by the ITV 1 network on 11th August 2002, the programme undertook a mission to track down former cast members of THE BROTHERS and reunite them for a 'farewell party' that was denied them when the show ended in 1976.

The programme contained new interviews, rare archive clips and of course the reunion of 8 original cast members (Robin Chadwick, Jennifer Wilson, Derek Benfield, Julia Goodman, Glyn Owen, Margaret Ashcroft, Colin Baker and Kate O'Mara) for a celebratory meal.

In the Picture: Band of Brothers

From the Northern Echo, first published Sunday 11th Aug 2002.

 

Nostalgia series are hugely popular and become even more so when they're about a programme as genuinely loved as The Brothers. Steve Pratt reports.

 

Tyne Tees Television producer-director Jason Beresford watched eagerly as old hit programmes to be recalled in a new ITV series were allocated. He saw a colleague fly out to Virginiafor a reunion of The Waltons.

 

Another jetted off to Californiafor a Dynasty party.

 

Finally, it was his turn -- an assignment that took him not halfway round the world but to a lorry park in Greenwich in London. Some would have envied him. For the programme he was given was old favourite The Brothers, the 1970s BBC1 series about a feuding family who ran a road haulage business. Not the most glamorous premise for a TV show, but one that gave the Beeb a big Sunday night hit.

 

As successful as it was at home, perhaps even more extraordinary was the popularity of The Brothers abroad, particularly in Israeland Scandinavia. During a promotional visit to Israel, where they were mobbed by crowds of enthusiastic fans, they found out just how popular they were. Foreign minister Moshe Dyan told the cast that if the Arabs had launched an attack on the night that Israeli TV screened The Brothers, nobody would have been prepared because the soldiers were in their barracks watching the show.

 

Beresford, a former North East Tonight reporter and newsreader, knew none of this when he was assigned to make After The Brothers. This is one of the nostagia series, produced at Tyne Tees Television in Newcastle, that takes a trip down memory lane with the cast, writers and makers of old TV hits.

 

This followed the success of the extended edition of After They Were Famous, which reunited The Sound Of Music children and took them back to Austria. The programme won a Bafta nomination. After The Waltons in the new series won more than seven million viewers, making it the highest rated factual programme of the year so far.

 

The Brothers, one on the long list of possible subjects, appears to have been a popular choice with David Liddiment, who's about to step down as ITV's programming chief. "I'm led to believe he remembered it very well from his teenage years and thought it was terrific," says Beresford.

 

The cast too were keen to meet up again, as they never had a farewell party when The Brothers ended, as the BBC never actually informed them the series had ended. They just didn't bother to commission another series.

 

"The circumstances surrounding the end were bad," says Beresford. "They told the actors to go away and that they'd be in touch about an eighth series. But they never did. Nobody really knows why. I think it's because some things are flavour of the month one minute, and then become something producers won't touch with a barge pole the next."

 

He recalled little of the series when he started researching. Understandable enough as it ran from 1972 to 1977, and, as he was only born in 1967, he wasn't really into Sunday night drama during that period.

 

Once he started watching the tapes - 92 episodes in all - it started to ring a few bells and the theme tune was certainly something he realised he knew.

 

The series has been repeated on cable and satellite channel UK Gold. As far as he knows, the BBC has never repeated it on terrestrial television. "There are two schools of thought why that happened," he explains. "Unlike period drama which is easy to repeat, if it's something in tune with its time like The Brothers, it can look quite dated five, ten or 15 years on. The other possible explanation is that the BBC felt it was a soap and they aren't repeated like drama series."

 

The story followed the fortunes of Hammond Transport Services, after founder Robert Hammond bequeathed a large chunk of the shareholding to his mistress Jennifer, much to the disgust of his widow Mary and their three arguing sons. Later, financial whizzkid Paul Merroney (played by Colin Baker) and airfreight boss Jane Maxwell (Kate O'Mara) were added to the mix.

 

While many of the cast were happy to talk about the series, several important faces are missing. Notably absent is Jean Anderson, who played matriarch Mary. Britain's oldest working actress, she died last year at the age of 93. Those who do contribute include O'Mara, Glyn Owen (who left after the first series), Jennifer Wilson, Margaret Ashcroft and Derek Benfield.

 

So does former Doctor Who Colin Baker, who married co-star Liza Goddard after they met on the set of The Brothers. They later divorced.

 

The original plan was to bring actors Robin Chadwick and Richard Easton, who played brothers Brian and David Hammond, over from Americawhere they now live and work. At the last minute Eastoncouldn't get leave from the Broadway stage play in which he was appearing. So Beresford got his trip abroad after all, flying to New York to interview him.

 

The London reunion happened over two days as the cast were interviewed about their memories of the show after a dinner at which they met up again. Some hadn't seen each other since the series ended 25 years ago.

 

They'd expected to meet again on the next series but that never happened.

 

Beresford even took three of them back to the lorry park in Greenwich, where the Hammonds haulage business was based. Unfortunately that footage didn't make it to the final film.

 

He's now busy working on his next project, although it won't be seen until New Year's Eve on Channel 4 - a compilation of The 100 Greatest TV Treats of 2002.

 
 
 
 
Thanks go to the Potteries Prydonians - Steve Worman and Paul Wood - for their help, Ron Brunwin for supplying artwork and Garry Jones for being a regular stalwart of the news section.
Extra special thanks go to the mighty Colin Baker himself for casting his mind back and helping catalogue his career.

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