Picks and Pans Review: Mystery: Game, Set & Match

updated 03/27/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1989 01:00AM

PBS (Thurs., March 23, 9 P.M. ET)

B+

Now here me politics, with people who lie and cheat and produce no tangible product other than paranoia. Here is a spy story, Len Deighton's Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match trilogy turned into a 12-week miniseries. But this is one of those very rare adaptations that is better than the original. These shows have more subtlety, sophistication and attitude than Deighton's books—and they also benefit from fine performances. Ian Holm plays Bernard Samson, a bitter, burned-out British spy who has been caught in too many office fights among his twitty bosses. After five years in London with his spy wife (Mel Martin as Fiona), Bernard is called back into the field to plug a leak that could sink a valuable network in East Germany. At the start, series host Vincent Price warns that all this "may seem confusing.... But don't worry. You won't be lost for long." His warning is worth heeding. At first, Game, Set & Match is just for serious fans of spy stories. The drama could be oomphier, the story shorter. But in the end, this becomes more than a spy story. Thanks to Holm's brooding performance, this becomes the tale of any decent man caught in any indecent enterprise, a cynical tale that says that the rewards of loyalty are few and that the real currency of politics in any organization is secrecy and humiliation. Holm's Samson becomes a tragic hero for victims of bureaucracy everywhere.

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