The Brothers was one of the BBC’s most popular soap operas. We look at why it was a hit when first broadcast in the 1970s, and why it continues to resonate with new fans today.
Shown on Sunday nights on BBC One’s primetime drama spot during the 70s, The Brothers followed the ups and downs of the Hammond family as they lived and worked together.
Following the family patriarch Robert’s death, his three sons learn to their horror that they have not only been left the family’s company – the haulage firm Hammond Transport Services – in equal shares, but that the will states that one of the shares has been bequeathed to their father’s mistress, Jennifer.
Running across seven series (92 episodes), this epic drama about the Hammond family tells their stories of trouble and strife in both the boardroom, and the bedroom, as they struggled with their personal and professional lives.
But what kept us coming back for more of the Hammond family and the ongoing saga of their lives?
The three Hammond brothers themselves were all compelling characters
The three Hammond brothers were very different, and each had very different ideas on how the business should be run. This created great tension and conflict as they battled to work together to keep the business running successfully.
No-nonsense Edward believed he was best-qualified to run the whole business by himself. Brian was a dull accountancy wizard – with a controlling wife. And “second class honours, first class layabout” David, was a former arts student and playboy with a glamourous girlfriend. He showed little interest in his share in the family business.
The fights between mother Mary and mistress Jennifer were always entertaining!
Jean Anderson delivered a fantastic role as the strict and domineering family matriarch Mary. She made sure she had an influence in the family’s company and their personal lives despite being humiliated by her dead husband, who left his mistress Jennifer a share in the family business that should have gone to her instead!
Jennifer and Mary spend all 92 episodes fighting each other. First over Jennifer’s affair with Robert, and later when Jennifer sets her eyes on marrying Mary’s son Edward Hammond! But this all pales in comparison when Jennifer’s big secret is revealed – a love child!
Surprisingly, the TV audiences loved the Jennifer and Edward romance. The wedding was a major television event.
The boardroom drama segments were surprisingly enthralling
Where on TV today can you get a gripping 20-minute scene set in a drink-and-smoke-filled room, revolving around a family argument over how to resolve a business crisis?
And the family feuding and disasters kept us coming back for more
Heartache, affairs, feuds, marriages, an illegitimate child, and death. The Brothers had more drama than Eastenders! (but so much more realistic!).
Doctor Who’s Colin Baker joined the cast, and quickly became the Most Hated Man in Britain!
Series Four welcomed Colin Baker into the cast as the ruthless city banker Paul Merroney, who would do anything to see the Hammond’s business succeed. Even if that meant compromising his principles or going against the Hammond family’s decisions. A true archetype of Thatcher’s Britain.
His character Merroney was even voted “the most hated man in Britain” by readers of the Sun newspaper!
And then fellow Doctor Who alumni Kate O’Mara joined, and a memorable TV rivalry began!
Who couldn’t resist watching ‘the man you love to hate’ Paul Merroney face off against his equally ambitious rival – the tough boss of an air freight business Jane Maxwell. A rivalry was created between these two dynamic characters that would last across the series.
Kate O’Mara and Colin Baker would go on to later face each other again on the set of Doctor Who. Baker would play the sixth incarnation of the time lord, and O’Mara was cast as evil Time Lady “The Rani”.
Sadly, it suddenly all came to an end...
After broadcasting series seven, and at the height of the drama’s popularity, the BBC unexpectedly cancelled the production. The cast did not even know this was on the cards!
In an exclusive interview with us, Colin Baker revealed why he thought the show inexplicably came to a halt.
All is not lost as you can still listen to their Christmas album!
Yes, The Brothers was so popular in The Netherlands that the cast were commissioned to record this Christmas album!