Mike Leigh at the BBC

Mike Leigh at the BBC

10 Episodes

In the seventeen years between his first two theatrical features (1971’s BLEAK MOMENTS and 1988’s HIGH HOPES), Mike Leigh, the great humanist of British cinema, sharpened his distinctive voice and famously improvisatory process at the BBC, where he directed a string of striking, bittersweet slice-of-life dramas built around sharply etched characters. Infused with Leigh’s trademark humor, empathy, and incisive class and social critiques, these oft-neglected early works are blueprints to Leigh’s illustrious later career and brilliant showcases for many of the legendary actors who would become his most important collaborators, including Alison Steadman, Lesley Manville, Brenda Blethyn, and Timothy Spall.

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Mike Leigh at the BBC
  • Mike Leigh at the BBC Teaser

    Episode 1

  • Mike Leigh Interview

    Episode 2

    This interview with director Mike Leigh was recorded in 2022.

  • Nuts in May

    Episode 3

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1976 • United Kingdom
    Starring Alison Steadman, Roger Sloman, Anthony O’Donnell

    A couple’s quest to get away from it all comes with some unforeseen hazards in Mike Leigh’s classic tale of a camping holiday gone wrong. Their car packed to the gills, the punctilious Keith ...

  • Abigail’s Party

    Episode 4

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1977 • United Kingdom
    Starring Alison Steadman, Tim Stern, Janine Duvitski

    Mike Leigh’s filmed version of his acclaimed stage play is a brilliantly biting comedy of manners that lays bare the bourgeois affectations and sexual frustrations of a young suburban couple. Abig...

  • Hard Labour

    Episode 5

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1973 • United Kingdom
    Starring Liz Smith, Clifford Kershaw, Polly Hemingway

    Mike Leigh’s first television drama is also one of his most autobiographical works, set in the same neighborhood where he grew up in Salford in Northern England. Mrs. Thornley (Liz Smith, in a po...

  • The Kiss of Death

    Episode 6

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1977 • United Kingdom
    Starring David Threlfall, Kay Adshead, Angela Curran

    Cited by Mike Leigh as one of his personal favorites among his own works, THE KISS OF DEATH is a mordantly funny portrait of Trevor (David Threlfall), a terminally shy mortician’s assistant who st...

  • Who’s Who

    Episode 7

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1979 • United Kingdom
    Starring Richard Kane, Joolia Cappleman, Phil Davis

    With this caustically observed comedy, Mike Leigh crafted a scathingly funny satire of a group of wealth- and image-obsessed London yuppies. Centering on Alan (Richard Kane)—a social-climbing emplo...

  • Grown-Ups

    Episode 8

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1980 • United Kingdom
    Starring Phil Davis, Brenda Blethyn, Lesley Manville

    One of the finest of the films that Mike Leigh produced for the BBC early in his career, GROWN-UPS focuses on the relationship between Dick (Philip Davis) and Mandy (Lesley Manville), a young, new...

  • Home Sweet Home

    Episode 9

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1982 • United Kingdom
    Starring Eric Richard, Lorraine Brunning, Kay Stonham

    The dysfunctional home and romantic lives of three postal workers spill over into their work in this tragicomic slice of life from Mike Leigh. Gordon (Timothy Spall, in the first of his celebrate...

  • Four Days in July

    Episode 10

    Directed by Mike Leigh • 1984 • United Kingdom
    Starring Brid Brennan, Des McAleer, Charles Lawson

    The last film Mike Leigh directed for the BBC examines the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the stories of two working-class Belfast families—one Protestant, the other Catholic—both expecting ne...