Alec Guinness is the original George Smiley, John Le Carré's familiar, ageing British Intelligence agent, in this box set pairing both of the original British series. In TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY Smiley is called out of retirement to discover the identity of the high-ranking Russian mole who has burrowed deep into "The Circus"--codename for the British secret service. In SMILEY'S PEOPLE, he's called back out of innocent retirement to trace an enemy infiltrator in the department where he was once the prize employee. As the shy and retiring master of espionage moves forwards to investigate, he finds himself going back over some very old ground.
Le Carré's style is the antithesis of his contemporary Ian Fleming's--far from the glamorous lifestyle of Bond, with his fast cars and faster women, these agents ride around in Skodas, and Beryl Reid is the closest thing to a femme fatale, save for Smiley's elusive wife, Anne. An extraordinary cast (including Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett and Ian Richardson), gritty realism and close attention to detail make Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy an outstanding piece of television drama.
Smiley's People is more interested in character than thrills, with a series of outstanding cameos (played by Michel Lonsdale, Mario Adorf, Vladek Sheybal, Michael Gough, Alan Rickman, Beryl Reid, Ingrid Pitt, Bernard Hepton, Michael Elphick, Rosalie Crutchley, Michael Byrne, Bill Paterson, and Maureen Lipman) contributing another view of the human cost of the cold war: most of the old friends Smiley seeks out react to his reappearance by saying they never wanted to see him again, and victory is only possible because Smiley discovers that his opposite number has a weakness that makes him almost sympathetic. It was originally broadcast in six hour-long episodes, and its intelligent approach works better if you watch episode-length chunks, letting one sink in before going on.