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Series / Bodyline

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Australian TV miniseries from 1984, retelling the story of the "Bodyline" cricket series from 1932-33. The English team had developed an unusual — and highly dangerous — tactic to counter the seemingly unstoppable Australian batsman Don Bradman. Bodyline involved bowling very fast and short, bouncing the ball toward the batsman's shoulder, and keeping several fielders close in behind him to catch him out if he attempted to play it. Several players were struck and injured, and the violence of the tactic nearly caused a diplomatic incident between England and Australia.

Takes its time, particularly at the beginning; the first episode is more or less an extended prologue. The first match of the series doesn't even start until episode 3. But while it takes a few liberties with the facts, it's very good at setting the historical scene. Stars Hugo Weaving as English captain Douglas Jardine.

Plot summary to be added.

Tropes in this series include:

  • The Ace: Don Bradman.
  • Ain't No Rule: The reason Jardine got away with Bodyline. The rules were subsequently amended.
  • Artistic Licence – Sports: On the team's return to England, Jardine is shown placing the Ashes urn in the trophy cabinet at Lord's Cricket Ground. In fact, the Ashes urn has never been used as a trophy: it is a permanent exhibit in the MCC Cricket Museum at Lord's. There was no trophy awarded to the winners of the Ashes cricket series until 1998.
  • Bad Boss: Jardine in the last episode, forcing Paynter and Larwood to play through injury and illness and holding their wages over their heads. note 
  • Batman Gambit: Douglas' rise to the captaincy of England involved a couple of these.
  • Berserk Button: The MCC balks at the accusation of "unsportsmanlike" behaviour, and threatens to abandon the tour if it isn't retracted. Douglas' parentage is also one.
  • Blue Blood: Jardine. And the Nawab of Pataudi, who is addressed as Your Highness by other characters.
  • The Captain: Australian captain Bill Woodfull plays this trope to the hilt.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The crowd at the Adelaide test when things turn nasty. The police were brought in to protect the English players — although even they are depicted as joining in the chant of "Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!"
    • It's been said that if one person had jumped the fence in that moment, the entire crowd would have followed.
    • And, "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?"
  • Composite Character: Chook the journalist, for the Australian media (including the actual journalist who invented the word Bodyline), and Jonesy (credited only as The Barracker).
  • The Great Depression: Forms the setting and informs the plot, giving the economic and psychological consequences of the tour more weight.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Of course, nobody wore helmets in those days. Contributes to the crossing of the Moral Event Horizon below.
    • In real life, once cricketers started wearing helmets in the 70s, Bradman commented that if someone had offered him a helmet during the Bodyline series, he would have worn it.
    • Jardine, in a textbook he wrote on the game, ridiculed such luxuries as thigh pads and chest protectors, arguing that a bat was enough defence and there was no reason for a grown man to encumber himself so, so it's doubtful he would have bothered with one.
  • The Hero's Journey: Inverted, as it's Jardine who is portrayed as undergoing this.
    • Also Deconstructed, in that taking the Hero's Journey turns him into a single-minded obsessive who'll stop at nothing to achieve his aim.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Percy and Douglas, for the first few episodes.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: They didn't take many liberties with the facts, but those they did take certainly didn't help the English side's image.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The MCC realised they had to ban Bodyline once they saw it used against them the following year.
  • It's Personal: Jardine's aim is to win the series, but it's clear his focus is on Bradman specifically.
  • Just Following Orders: Larwood and the others claimed this trope.
  • Large Ham: Lord Harris, who delivers lines like "He has shown great loyalty" in almost Biblical tones.
    • Chook gets a few moments, particularly his monologue to Packer.
    • Jonesy too.
  • The Lancer: Australian captain Bill Woodfull gets two, in Vic Richardson and Bill Ponsford.
  • Meaningful Echo: Jardine lies about Harris wanting Percy to surrender the captaincy. Percy later uses the same lie to let Jardine know Harris told him as well.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Although he dies a natural death, it inspires Jardine to do him proud.
  • Not Here To Make Friends: Jardine says this exact phrase, followed by “I’m here to win the Ashes.”
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Australian Cricket Board.
  • Only Sane Man: Plum Warner is this for the English side. Jardine completely ignores him.
    • But also G.O. Allen, one of Jardine's fast bowlers, who refused to participate in Bodyline and instead bowled in an orthodox fashion throughout the series. As an amateur himself he had enough social cachet for Jardine to respect his principles - and he returned excellent figures, too.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Jonesy gets in to watch the players train by claiming to be Chook's photographer.
    • Lampshaded when asked about his dog. "Him? Never seen him before in me life. Stay." Works not because of the Idiot Ball but a sympathetic security guard.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Richardson suggests that the Australians try using the Bodyline tactic against the English. Captain Woodfull refuses. note 
  • Poor Communication Kills: Well, not kills, exactly, but the only reason the MCC did nothing to curb Jardine was that they couldn't actually see what he was doing. When the West Indies used Bodyline in England later that year, they finally realised what all the fuss was about. note 
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Nawab of Pataudi joins Jardine's team. He would later captain the Indian test team.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Jonesy, when Oldfield is hit.note  Particularly meaningful given he had earlier said that he would go along to the last day of a match even though it would almost certainly be over in a few minutes.
    • Also the Nawab of Pataudi, who refuses to play Bodyline and is dumped from the team by Jardine.
  • Serious Business: Oh, so very much.
    • Justified in its historical accuracy: the Prime Minister and Sir Frank Packer did get involved, and the tour resulted in diplomatic tension between the two countries. There were serious economic ramifications to cancelling the tour.
  • Shout-Out: Douglas' initial drunken and incoherent explanation of how cricket works is a well-known quotation of unknown origin, titled "Cricket, As Explained To A Foreign Visitor".
  • The Stoic: Bill Ponsford.
  • Villain Protagonist: While they also show us Bradman's origins, the focus is on Jardine.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jardine, to an extent.