Desperate Romantics

Some people want fame. Some want fortune. Others just want the opportunity for no-strings sex that fame and fortune confer. But these guys? They want all three… for they are the Desperate Romantics.

Yep, it’s London, 1851. The city is in the throes of the industrial revolution, but amongst the dirty red bricks and smoke stacks are three young, thrill-seeking artists – the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Badly-behaved, and throwing a one fingered salute to the Establishment of the day, the Brotherhood are on a quest for artistic immortality that takes them into some of the lewdest, darkest and funniest corners of London.

William Holman Hunt is a Londoner from the wrong side of the tracks. Religious imagery features strongly in his painting, but this couldn’t be any further from his other main interest – boxing. A founding member of the Brotherhood, he becomes embroiled with a young prostitute, Annie Miller. She has the looks of an angel – but a mouth like an open sewer.

Naïve, very talented and with boy-band good looks, John Everett Millais invariably lands on his feet, much to the irritation of his peers. His close relationship with the wife of the influential art critic and patron John Ruskin wife creates fevered public speculation.

Dark-eyed, mischievous, handsome and broke, Dante Gabriel Rossetti has got serious limitations as an artist (he’s lazy as hell) but that’s not going to stop him bedding as many of his models as he possibly can. That is until he meets Lizzie Siddal. Sexy, and frequently sharp-tongued, Lizzie is the poster girl of her generation, but she’s risking it all by modelling for this bunch of bohemians.

Finally budding journalist Fred Walters spends his time chronicling the careers of the Brotherhood, creating vital press hype, often at the expense of his morals and self esteem. Snubbed by Hunt, taken advantage of by Rossetti, Fred has our sympathies, until things start to turn nasty…

The vibrant young cast includes Aidan Turner (Being Human,The Clinic), Samuel Barnett (The History Boys, Beautiful People), Rafe Spall (He Kills Coppers, Hot Fuzz), Sam Crane (The Sins, Midsomer Murders) and Tom Hollander (Valkyrie, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean).

Based on the book of the same name by Franny Moyle, Desperate Romantics is a character-driven romp through the alleys, galleries, brothels and chop-houses of 19th century London.

The DVD is released on  21st September and should retail at around £25. For you buck, you get 360 mins (approx) of bodice ripping fun and extras take a look Behind The Scenes.

Period dramas make me feel ill. Watching people sighing at fields, heaving at windowsills and men in stupid hats grimacing near ornamental ponds, dragged out over seemingly endless hours of fussy English and monumentally uninteresting socio-politics gives me a fluey feeling in my bones, like a bad hangover in a top hat museum.

Yet British TV viewers are seemingly thrilled to endlessly gobble up the formula like wailing hatchlings in a nest, eager for regurgitated doileys and cock-er-ney prostitutes to be puked up down their necks. The names and manors change, but the song remains the same.


Well, I’ve been witness to a rewriting of the Great British Period Drama. Yep. Welcome to A Tale Of Two Titties. Tearing pages from Dickensian novels and using them as Kleenex to wipe up the gentleman sex gunk.

This is Desperate Romantics (BBC Two), a show that isn’t at all shy about running around half stoned out of its mind with a great big throbbing erection. It’s Two Pints of Lager and the Landed Gentry, Please.

It’s an unbelievable programme. The plot is there or thereabouts, following a bunch of impossibly attractive people with sideburns and naked bosoms (not one the one person you understand) and a smattering of swearwords and constant euphemisms to the male genitals.It’s ludicrous and bizarre fun.

To be perfectly honest, I only tuned in to give it a mauling, but instead, it was me who got manhandled, thrown roughly on the bed and grunted at like a randy pig in mating season. In the 60 minutes watched, there was more smut than a box set of Carry On films. It was strangely brilliant.

Period dramas always demand that you invest in some stupid, imagined England and go along for the drip fed gentle melancholia… where as this is too busy sticking its hands down its britches to even notice you’re watching, gob open like a grubby fingered voyeur.

It’s mindnumbing, rollicking good fun which will make you feel like a naughty teenager who hit paydirt after channel hopping for 20 minutes, late night on Channel 4, in the hope of catching a sex scene on a Polish artfilm. With laughs.

You will gain absolutely nothing from watching this, apart from some dunderheaded enjoyment of looking at attractive men and women tearing each others clothes off and getting hammered on gin and hashish. It’s almost like picking up a dusty old book, only to find a page bookmarked with a mirkin and a stash of dirty pictures to look at.

Illicit, idiotic and the most fun you can have without taking your underpants off.

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