Mike Leigh has been making films for decades, but his notoriety didn’t really spread until the late-80s. The 1970s mainly saw him direct a series of TV-plays, including this episode of the television show Second City Firsts. The epsiode, entitled The Permissive Society, aired in April of 1975, and the “kitchen-sink realism” that Leigh eventually mastered already seems to be in firm place. The plot concerns an uncomfortable young woman attending a dinner with her boyfriend and his sister, both of whom are quite abrasive and unknowing. The episode is fairly rife with humor, but it opens up into more dramatic territory near the end in an extended scene that reveals much about a brother and his insecurities and maturation. Leigh’s craft lies in his ability to draw delicate humor and pathos out of this situation, one that could have devolved into a standard awkward dinner set-up. It ends up being a weirdly moving and quite funny work.
The Permissive Society 1973