Burton and Taylor Saturday, 8.30pm, ABC
The tempestuous love affair and the on-again, off-again marriages of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor kept gossip writers and audiences enthralled for decades. This biographical drama jumps over those years to 1983 when Taylor persuaded Burton to appear with her on Broadway in Noel Coward’s Private Lives. It was an apt (some might say cynical) choice, given the play is about a divorced couple who meet while honeymooning with their new partners. Taylor (played here by Helena Bonham-Carter) and Burton (Dominic West) were married from 1964 to 1974 and 1975 to 1976. Their version of the play was slammed by the critics, but of course it was a huge commercial success as audiences flocked to see them together. Tonight’s biopic opens with Taylor, addicted to grog and pills and determined to punish Burton, arriving for rehearsal without having read the script. Burton is appalled. After opening night they go out to dinner, fight and she calls in sick the next day. It’s a big challenge for Bonham-Carter and West to play such well-known stars, but they both come as close to pulling it off as is possible. West captures Burton’s incredible voice and Bonham-Carter looks pretty good as the exquisite but fragile Taylor, who was 50 at the time. Burton was 57 and died a year later. It was the last time the famous couple appeared together. Taylor died in 2011.