Tag Archives: Masterpiece

The Long Song Pilot Review

Historical fiction is more than just a story based on facts. It has the ability to make the modern person think about where we have come and where we are going.

The new three part miniseries, The Long Song (based on the novel of the same name by the late author Andrea Levy), premiered last night on PBS. July (Tamara Lawrance) was born a slave on the island of Jamaica in the 19th century. She is taken as a child from her mother to work as a personal maid for Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Atwell) and given the new name of Marguerite. Caroline is petty, selfish, and self-serving.

When the slaves start to revolt and talk of freedom, things start to change for both July and Caroline. That change is represented by the new overseer, Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden).

Like many Americans, I was only taught about slavery within the United States. But I was not entirely aware about slaves that were kept by Brits living and working in Jamaica. I enjoyed the first episode. Caroline is a character that is similar to Scarlett O’Hara (aka, you love to hate her), played to perfection by Atwell. Lawrance is brilliant as July, continually outwitting her mistress. The brief introduction of Robert Goodwin (Lowden) toward the end of the episode is just enough to stir the plot up further, making me at least want to watch the second and third episodes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Long Song airs on PBS on Sundays at 10PM.

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Miss Scarlet and the Duke Pilot Review

During the Victorian Era, women lived by a long list of rules.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, premiered last night. Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) was raised by her widower father, Henry (Kevin Doyle) in what was a unconventional manner for 1882 England. She believes that one day, she will take over the family business. But when he dies suddenly, and in debt, Eliza feels like she has no choice but to pick up where he left off.

But not everyone accepts the idea that Eliza can follow in her father’s footsteps. William Duke (Stuart Martin), her father’s protégé who is now a police detective is not sold on the idea. Following up on a promise he made to Henry years ago to protect Eliza, he tries to convince her to give up her detective work. But Eliza will not be swayed.

If I had to make a list today of the best new television shows of 2021, Miss Scarlet and the Duke would be near the top. Martin and Phillips have an undeniable Hepburn and Tracy like chemistry. I love how strong and single minded Eliza is, and how frustrating it is for William.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs on PBS Sunday nights at 8PM.

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All Creatures Great and Small Pilot Review

I don’t know about anyone else, but my first job out of college was eye opening.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by James Herriot, premiered last night.

In 1930’s Britain, James Herriot (played by newcomer Nicholas Ralph) is a young man with one dream: to be a veterinarian. All hope seems lost until he gets a letter from Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Farnon is a veterinarian living and working in rural Yorkshire. James accept the job as Farnon’s new assistant.

His first meeting with his new boss is an eye opening one. Farnon is well, eccentric, to say the least. James is young, eager, and just a little green. Though he is not without allies. Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is fully aware of her employer’s nature and encourages him to give James a shot. There is also Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), a local woman who works on her family’s farm and could possibly be a love interest.

This is not the first time these books have been adapted for television. They were previously adapted in the late 1970’s and late 1980’s. This is my first introduction to these characters as I had not seen the previous series or read the books. To be perfectly honest, I was not sure if I would enjoy the program. I am glad I was wrong. It is charming and a nice way to begin the week anew.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

All Creatures Great and Small air on PBS Sunday nights at 9PM.

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Elizabeth is Missing Review

Living with Alzheimer’s is not easy for both the person is who is suffering and their loved ones.

The TV movie, Elizabeth is Missing, premiered last night on PBS. Maude Horsham (Glenda Jackson) is a woman in her later years who has been diagnosed with with early onset Alzheimer’s. When her friend and neighbor, Elizabeth (Maggie Steed) disappears, Maud is convinced that something sinister has happened to her. While she doggedly tries to put the pieces together, everyone around her thinks that Maud has lost her marbles. There is also the question of what happened to Maude’s older sister, Sukey (Sophie Rundle), who went missing decades ago.

What I liked about this TV movie is that is that we see the world through Maud’s eyes. When it comes to narratives where one of the characters has Alzheimer’s, the perspective is usually on the family members, not the person who is living with the disease. As a viewer, it made me sympathetic to Maud because I saw and heard what she saw and heard.

The problem is, however, is that the drama is not as high stakes as it is made out to be. Granted, in terms of mystery dramas, it is low key. But I wish that there was just a little more meat on the narrative bones.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Elizabeth is Missing is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Best New TV Shows of 2020

  1. Bridgerton (Netflix): This Jane Austen inspired series is based on books by Julia Quinn. Sexy and romantic with a feminist twist, it is the perfect BPD (British Period Drama) to lose one’s self in.
  2. Saved by the Bell (Peacock): The re-imagining of this much loved 1990’s teen comedy program will thrill both new fans and old.
  3. Cursed (Netflix): Based on the comic book by Frank Miller, it revisits the Arthurian myth via Nimue (Katherine Langford).
  4. World on Fire (PBS): This PBS/Masterpiece follows a group of individuals as World War II is on the horizon.
  5. Mrs. America (F/X/Hulu): In the 1970’s, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was close to becoming the law of the land. A tug of war begins between one group of women that is for it and another that is against it.
  6. Sanditon (PBS): Based off the unfinished book of the same name by Jane Austen, we follow Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), a young woman who leaves her family for the seaside resort town of Sanditon.
  7. The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix): This Netflix series is based on the books by Ann M. Martin.
  8. Flesh and Blood (PBS): Natalie (Lydia Leonard), Jake (Russell Tovey), and Helen (Claudie Blakely) are unsure about their widow mother’s new boyfriend.
  9. The Weakest Link (NBC): A delightful reboot of the early 2000’s game show of the same name. Hosted by Jane Lynch.
  10. The Windemere Children (PBS): World War II has just ended. 300 child survivors of The Holocaust are taken to England to heal. The adults have their work cut out for them.

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Flesh and Blood Review

After the death of one parent, hearing that your living parent is dating again can create one of two reactions. The first is joy or relief that the parent who is still alive is getting back into the world. The second is concern about the new boyfriend or girlfriend.

The new four part miniseries, Flesh and Blood, premiered last night on PBS. A little more than a year after Vivian’s (Francesca Annis) husband passed away, she has starting seeing Mark (Stephen Rea). It looks like they are happy together, but only two of her three adult children trust the new man in their mom’s life. Youngest daughter Natalie (Lydia Leonard) is happy that Vivian is moving on. But her older siblings, Helen (Claudie Blakley) and Jake (Russell Tovey) believe that Mark has ulterior motives.

Then there is a murder on Vivian’s property. The first person the police talk to is Vivian’s neighbor, Mary (Imelda Staunton). If that was not enough, Helen, Jake, and Natalie are all dealing with problems in their own lives.

I really enjoyed the first episode. There is a nice mix of family drama and mystery, keeping the audience engaged and asking questions.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flesh and Blood airs on PBS at 9:00 PM on Sunday.

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Beecham House Review

No one is without a past, for better or for worse. Ideally, we should be able to learn from the past and watch it disappear in the rearview mirror. But that is not always the case.

Beecham House premiered last night on PBS. This six-part miniseries takes place in India at the end of the 18th century. The viewer is introduced to John Beecham (Tom Bateman). A former employee of the British East India Company, John is eager to move on from his troubled past. But that is easier said than done.

Co-written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, (Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light), the supporting cast is full of Masterpiece actors. Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Leo Suter (Sanditon, Victoria), and Grégory Fitoussi (Mr. Selfridge) are three actors included in a large and diverse cast that brings the story to life.

I really enjoyed the first episode. As the lead character, John is compelling, complicated, and human. Filmed on location in India, the setting adds a level of reality that is often not seen in dramas set in this period. It could have been conceived as a technicolor, fairytale-ish land that can only come out of a dream. Authentically re-creating India as it was in the late 18th century helps to draw the viewer in further to the narrative and the characters.

I recommend it.

Beecham House airs on PBS on Sunday at 10:00.

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The Windemere Children/World on Fire Review

For some, World War II and the Holocaust may seem like it was ancient history. Those in the know would say that that period was not so long ago and continues to have an affect on us, 80 years later.

Last night, PBS aired two different programs: The Windemere Children and World on Fire.

The Windmere Children, a television movie, takes place just after World War II. Britain has taken in 1000 child survivors of the Holocaust. 300 of these children are taken to an estate in England to recover. They are traumatized, both physically and emotionally. They are also most likely the only survivors from their families. It is up to the adults around them to help them become children again. Played by Romola Garai, Iain Glenn, and Thomas Kretschmann, the therapists and teachers are doing everything they can to help their charges begin to heal.

World on Fire is a miniseries that tells the story of ordinary people whose lives are turned upside down by the war. Starring Helen Hunt, Jonah Hauer-King, and Sean Bean, this miniseries follows a group of individuals from various countries as they face the dangerous realities of war. Hauer-King’s character is a young man from Britain in love with two women. Hunt plays an American journalist trying to do her job in Europe as the shadow of war grows ever closer. Bean’s character is a working-class father doing the best he can to take care of his children.

I loved both. The Windemere Children is both heartbreaking and uplifting. World on Fire stands out because it tells the stories of ordinary people who must do extraordinary things to survive.

I recommend both.

World on Fire airs on PBS Sunday nights at 9.

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Howards End/Sanditon Review

Classic and beloved novels are easy targets for stage and screen reboots. The question that fans have to ask is if these reboots hold up to the text.

Last night, the new adaptations of Howards End and Sanditon premiered on Masterpiece.

Based on the E.M. Foster novel, Howards End is the story of the intermingling of three families in the early 20th century in England. The Wilcoxes are upper class, the Schlegels are middle class and the Basts are lower class. With a cast led by Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, this story of cross-class differences and secrets is bound to delight audiences.

I have a confession to make: I have heard of the book, but I have never read it. That will soon be remedied. In the meantime, I was completely taken in by the first episode and as of now, I plan on completing the series.

Sanditon was started by Jane Austen just months before she died. An eleven chapter fragment of a novel, respected television writer Andrew Davies continued where Austen left off. Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) is part Elizabeth Bennet and part Catherine Morland. The daughter of a large landed gentry family from the country, Charlotte is young and eager to spread her wings.

When an offer comes her way to visit Sanditon, an up and coming seaside resort, she immediately says yes. But Sanditon is a different world than the world she grew up in. One of the people she meets is Sydney Parker (Theo James, who played the infamous Mr. Pamuk on Downton Abbey), the brooding and sometimes rude younger brother of the couple who she is staying with.

For many Austen fans, Sanditon is a what-if experience. With only eleven chapters completed, we can only guess what the completed novel would have looked like. As an adaptation, so far, I have to say that I am impressed.

Like his previous Jane Austen adaptation, Davies knows when to stick to the script and when to add a little something extra.

What I liked about the series so far is that unlike most Austen heroines, Charlotte’s main reason for going to Sanditon is not to find a husband. Most of her heroines (with the exception of Emma Woodhouse) are motivated to marry because of family pressure and/or financial needs. Charlotte goes to Sanditon to see the world and experience life outside of the family that she grew up in. She is also curious about the world and shows interest in certain subjects that would not be deemed “appropriate” for a woman of this era.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It is a love letter to Austen fans and contains plenty of Easter eggs if one knows where to look.

I recommend both.

Howards End and Sanditon air on PBS on Sundays nights at 8:00 and 9:00 respectively.

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The Chaperone Movie Review

The opportunity to travel offers more than what it appears to be. It is more than the place one goes to, it is the emotional experience and the growth that comes with travel.

The 2018 movie, The Chaperone, is based on the book of the same name by Laura Moriarty. At the age of fifteen, future silent screen star Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) is given the opportunity to study dance at a prestigious school in New York City. But a fifteen year old girl cannot travel alone, especially in 1922. Norma (Elizabeth McGovern) is there to make sure that Louise stays out of trouble.

But Norma has her own reasons for leaving Kansas and her family behind. Can she find the answers she is looking for and will Louise become the star that she dreams of becoming?

Penned by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellows, this movie is interesting. I appreciated the parallel character arcs of the lead characters. Though their end goals are different, their individual journeys are remarkably similar. I also appreciated the relationships with the men around them are secondary to the relationship between Norma and Louise.

However, compared to Downton Abbey, this movie is kind of meh. Though I have not read the book yet, I did not have the chill up my spine that I had with Downton.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Chaperone is available for streaming on Masterpiece.

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