Porterhouse Blue [1987]

Porterhouse Blue begins as an insular lampoon of stuffy British academia but rapidly escalates to dizzyingly absurd--even grotesque--heights of satire. Porterhouse College (a fictional part of Cambridge University) has lost another Master to a Porterhouse Blue, a stroke induced by the college's legendary excess in food and drink. But the newly appointed Master, Sir Godber Evans (Ian Richardson, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), is a former Porterhouse student with a dim view of its traditions. Egged on by his progressive wife, Evans proposes to encourage scholarship, admit women, put contraceptive vending machines in the bathrooms, and eliminate the large staff of college servants--which incurs the wrath of the college's head porter, Skullion (David Jason, A Touch of Frost). As Skullion maneuvers to foil Evans' plans, a student named Zipser (John Sessions, Gormenghast) wrestles with his lust for his housekeeper, a passion with explosive results. Over the course of four hour-long episodes, the college's meager dignity is destroyed by media scandal, a masquerade orgy, and a courtyard swarming with gas-filled prophylactics. The excellent performances rise from a low boil to a furious pitch of indignation, desperation, and revenge. Anglophiles will enjoy the freewheeling bite of the humor, which compares with Evelyn Waugh's caustic wit. The unusual soundtrack, by a-cappella group the Flying Pickets, adds to the miniseries' unique flavor. --Bret Fetzer

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