Last Night’s TV – Rich Man, Poor Man: A Knight’s Tale

john madejski

This film was made and narrated by Ian Denyer, who’s a Bafta and RTS-award winning film-maker, but as the film wore on, I couldn’t help but wonder why he’d chosen to make it and subsequently broadcast it, for it was surely not the most shining example of filmmaking to add to his prestigious CV.

It evidently wasn’t made because he liked the subject of his film, John Madejski, overly much; Denyer was fairly cutting about the man and sarcastic in his overviews about John’s achievements and dreams for the future throughout.

So was it just to tell a fascinating story of rags to riches that Denyer spent three years shadowing Sir Madejski? Possibly, but if so, how come huge chunks of Madejski’s life-story were omitted? Maybe they were omitted at Madejski’s behest, but if that’s the case, surely the point of the film was somewhat negated from the get go?

Yes, we heard about how Madejski was born illegitimately and the profound effect this had on his mother, and in turn, on him, however, John did eventually discover who his biological father was, but that info wasn’t shared with us. We heard too how he’d taken his step-father’s surname – hence the Polish influence in his name – and we of course heard how he is a self-made multi-millionaire who started out with nothing.

It could have been a glamorous and romantic story, but Denyer’s heavy handed narration and often less than flattering filming, made it infinitely less intriguing than it had the potential to be.

We did get to see Cilla Black, a close friend of John’s and a celebrity of course, but she was the only woman in his life that we heard anything from. There was no mention of the mother of his daughters or any other romantic dalliances. What there was much mention of however was John’s love for his hometown Reading, upon which Madejski had lavished millions of pounds. This was a subject that Denyer managed to squeeze every ounce of derision out of, which again pointed to his disregard for – and possibly dislike of – Madejski.

One wonders if there was some hint of jealousy behind Denyer’s apparent aversion to everything that Madejski stood for and was passionate about. I wondered this because there was a fairly large segment of the film devoted to recording John’s material trappings which included luxury cars and properties. I got the feeling that Denyer begrudged Madejski these things, perhaps feeling they weren’t properly earned.

The fact is, that couldn’t be further from the truth; Madejski has hard earned every penny, but the fact that he has, doesn’t make him an interesting candidate for such a film. And unfortunately, Denyer didn’t make the best of the interesting aspects about him, such as his contentious birth which is clearly an issue that positively dogs the man and which, arguably, has driven him on to the success he now is.

Indeed, Denyer’s attitude to Madejski was summed up at the end of the film when, with footage showing John receiving his Knighthood from Princess Anne – and shortly after John had discussed the amount of money he’s lost so far during the economic downturn – Denyer remarked, “In my opinion, losing it, or some of it, may be the best thing that could happen to John Madejski.”

Denyer didn’t choose to clarify why he has such a harsh opinion and why, by saying such a thing, he clearly wants to see Madejski knocked off his self-made gilded perch.

Overall, I’m still at a loss as to why this film was made. There was certainly no clear message behind it other than Denyer’s personal feelings towards Madejski, which in and of themselves negated subjective documentation. Perhaps there’s something between the two that we don’t know about and the whole film was aimed at having a dig at Madejski, but if so, it’s a pretty poor show to promise us an interesting Cinderella story then tell it from the Wicked Step-Mother’s perspective.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.