Alec Guinness returned as George Smiley, John LeCarré’s impeccable, noiseless master spy in what is generally considered a slightly lesser follow-up to TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, the game-changing mini-series of 1979. Well, perhaps, but who would forgo six more chances to see Guinness cogitate, polish his extra-large eye-glasses & strategically withhold emotion, wasted action & information on his careful route to capturing Karla, his Soviet spy-master counterpart. A few actors come back from TINKER, and the replacements and new characters have no trouble fitting in under helming from Simon Langton that purposefully holds to a bare simmer, yet grows increasingly suspenseful over its six episodes. This is one of the few mini-series that makes you wish you could stretch out the end, the way you slow your reading pace to savor the last few pages of a favorite book.
DOUBLE-BILL/READ ALL ABOUT IT: Smiley was introduced in LeCarre’s debut novel CALL FOR THE DEAD/’61, filmed as THE DEADLY AFFAIR/’66, a Sidney Lumet film with James Mason as one Charles Dobbs, a renamed & largely reimagined George Smiley. LeCarre’s follow-up novel, A MURDER OF QUALITY/’62 (filmed for tv with Denholm Elliot in ‘91), misused Smiley as a sort of Agatha Christie amateur detective. Oops. Yet THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY, which finds Smiley rewarded as MI-6 caretaker-in-chief in the period between TINKER and PEOPLE, awaits dramatization.