The Reckoning is the four-part drama which starts Steve Coogan (This Time With Alan Partridge) as the late, disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile, given everything we now know he got up to during his life and career.
At the time of his death, his funeral was treated almost like a State Funeral! And yes, I regularly watched programmes like Jim’ll Fix It; and to think that when I was at school in the ’80s, we were asked to draw posters relating to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, because Savile was running a marathon for him, as part of his ongoing charade to hide in plain sight and carry out his disgusting actions.
With Coogan as Savile, journalist Dan Davies (Mark Stanley – The Thief His Wife and the Canoe) wants to write his story, with Savile claiming to admit he will give the full truth, even though he clearly sounds evasive throughout, with flashbacks, starting in Roundhay Park, Leeds in the 1960s, when Savile was a DJ, and his schtick over the microphone talked about about grabbing any partner on the dancefloor… “And it doesn’t matter where you grab them”, even trying to smooch with some of the young girls.
To Dan, Savile refuses any allegations of impropriety, and scotches any rumours as “cobblers”, while to others, he claims to have met Elvis and had the man dance for him. As such, this all shows the manipulation he managed, such as claiming he can teach a girl what he learns in church, by getting her to kneel down, put her hands together and “pray”.
However, how many victims came forward at the time? Sadly, if they don’t, it enables Savile to get away with his behaviour, but even then, if and when they did, they were often disbelieved because “it’s just Jimmy being Jimmy”. Plus, there were people at the top of showbiz who closed their eyes and ears to what they heard, because Savile was a big draw and a moneyspinner for them. As such, he was treated like a god, and his creepy behaviour towards vulnerable young girls went unchecked on purpose.
Steve Coogan has played a lot of different real-life individuals, such as Hacienda founder Anthony H Wilson in 24 Hour Party People, and Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie, all the while, not quite looking or sounding like any of them, but just about pulling it off. I’ve only seen the opener to this, as well as part of the second episode, and given his background in impressions, he does manage to carry things off, but when you hear him speaking without seeing his face as Savile, you can pretty much just hear Coogan’s own voice.
Elsewhere in Savile’s life, Gemma Jones (Marvellous) plays his mother, Agnes, to whom he was devoted, even to the point where, later on as he was interviewed by Louis Theroux, he showed on camera that he stored his late mother’s dresses in the wardrobe, as if she’d still need them at a later date. That said, when he claimed to buy his mum a new flat, it was clear he’d be using her old place for illicit encounters with young ladies.
He even befriended hospital Leeds General Infirmnary head porter Charles Hullighan (Mark Lewis Jones – Bolan’s Shoes), making me wonder why would he want to pop in there when he’s such a big star? Well, as I know from when I was a kid, hospitals are full of children. I’m just glad he was nowhere near my hospital!
Part of the storyline involves fronting Top of the Pops, co-created by Johnnie Stewart (Julian Rhind-Tutt – Man Vs Bee), and it’s at that point where we get a small clip of Savile on the programme to show what he was like. Rest assured, his episodes will never be shown on BBC4 on a Friday night, unless it’s an example of his programmes, in context about his crimes.
Additionally, Robert Emms (Chernobyl) plays Ray Teret, Savile’s friend and chauffeur. Before I knew of his connection with Savile, along with the allegations, Teret was on local Stockport radio station Century FM around 2000 or so (hence, long after KFM Radio succumbed in 1991 to the takeover from the awful Signal Radio (making Signal Cheshire in this area), as the station was going downhill and was on its last legs and they were so short-staffed, Teret ended up coming in at 6pm for a six-hour shift, then left to go home and come back for another six-hour shift at 6AM!, in a bid to keep the station going before it was sold off.
I rather felt sorry for him back then… but certainly not when the truth came out in 2014, and he was jailed for 25 years, for 7 rapes and 11 indecent assaults. At the time, I couldn’t decide between hoping that he gets to serve every last one of those 25 years before dying in jail, or that someone inside helps him reach that end rather more quickly. Ultimately, he died in May 2021, and the reason given online is cancer. Finally, it was caught by someone deserving. Next stop, Vladimir Putin, please!
The Reckoning can be a tough watch at times, but while this dramatisation states that some names were changed to protect identities, and some scenes created for dramatic purposes, there are some person-to-camera segments from some of his victims, shown either at the start or dropped in to an episode later.
The Reckoning begins tonight on BBC1 at 9pm, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. All episodes are now available on the BBC iPlayer.
You can also buy the movie on Limited Edition Blu-ray.
Series Director: Sandra Goldbacher, David Blair
Producer: Clare Shepherd
Writer: Neil McKay
Jimmy Savile: Steve Coogan
Ray Teret: Robert Emms
Bill Cotton: Michael Jibson
Agnes Savile: Gemma Jones
Charles Hullighan: Mark Lewis Jones
Eric Morley: Neil Pearson
Dan Davies: Mark Stanley
Girls in flat: Jade Croot, Isabella Pappas
Darien: Eloise Thomas
St Marcella Priest: James Quinn
Johnnie Stewart: Julian Rhind-Tutt
Tom Sloan: Andrew Woodall
Anna Instone: Barbara Wilshere
Alison: Faye McKeever
Sara: Tia Dutt
Mother (TOTP): Anita Breheny
Eddie Casper: Adrian Wheeler
Sunita: Seeta Indrani
Switchboard operator: Sally Guinness
Albie: Pearce Quigley
Peter Jaconelli: Peter Wight
Graham: Linford Johnson
Young Victor: Fode Simbo
Beryl: Siobhan Finneran
Dr Pat McGrath: Michael Nardone
Sir Ludwig Guttman: Henry Goodman
Mary: Anna Hornby
Jocelyn: Lizzie Hopley
Sir Arlo Knoxley: Simon Treves
Libby: Amy Trigg
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.