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.

Granchester Series 2/ Mr. Selfridge Series 4 Review

When Downton Abbey left our television screens for the final time earlier this month, there seemed to be a vacuum on Sunday nights. Where there is plenty of programs to choose from, there is nothing like Masterpiece.

Thankfully, Sunday night, the vacuum was filled.

Masterpiece returned with a one-two punch of Granchester and Mr. Selfridge.

Grantchester picks up from where we left Sydney (James Norton) and Geordie (Robson Green) at the end of series one. Finally healed from the gun shot wound, Sydney, Geordie and company are enjoying a day outdoors.

Then Sydney is arrested for allegedly having sexual relations with a teenage girl. Youch. Quite the way to start the second series.

Well, that’s not quite, the way. This is. You’re welcome.

If one looked up the definition of a Greek drama in the dictionary, one would find a picture of Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven).  In this final series, viewers will see the downfall of the titular character. Harry is still the same charismatic, charming, intelligent business man that we met in the first season. He also has the same weaknesses for women, gambling and booze.

But Harry realizes in the first episode that he is not the young man he was once was. Now a grandfather several times over, Harry is warned by his family and his faithful employees to slow down. But Harry, being Harry, is still a mile a minute.

Do I recommend them? If you know me and this blog, then you know the answer.

War & Peace Review

War changes everything. Anyone who has ever fought in a war or let a loved one go to defend their country on the battlefield understands this change.

Leo Tolstoy’s timeless (and extremely long novel), War and Peace made it to the small screen last night. Airing on three different cable channels, War And Peace tells the story of how the conflict between Russia and France under Napoleon’s rule in the early 19th century forever changes the lives of five aristocratic families.

Pierre Bezukhov (Paul Dano), is the nebbish-y, eccentric and illegitimate son who suddenly finds that after his father’s death, he has inherited his father’s estate and is suddenly on the radar of every single female and matchmaking parent. Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton) is the handsome, but disillusioned prince who goes to fight for emperor and country.  Married to a woman he ought to care for, but does not, Andrei leaves his pregnant wife in the country with his father and sister while he goes to fight.  Natasha Rostova (Lily James) may not be the prettiest girl in the room, but she is full of emotion, romantic ideals and energy.

I should state that I have never read War and Peace, so my review is strictly based on the first episode. With a screen play by veteran writer Andrew Davies and a cast that happily fulfills any Anglophile’s wish list for a dream cast, War & Peace joins the very long list of screen adaptations that one hopes only bring a greater spotlight to the novel and encourage greater readership of said novel.

I was drawn in by the cast, but it is the story of war and how lives change because of war that I predict bring in viewers for the next three episodes.

And of course, Janeites (and anyone who has a healthy obsession with British drama and/or Masterpiece Theater) will easily recognize actors whose work they have loved before. Outside of Lily James and James Norton, there are several Austen actors and one actress who I was sad to see leave my screen when her character was written out of Mr. Selfridge last year. Who they are, you will have to watch (or just go to the IMDB page).

Do I recommend it? Yes.

War & Peace will be airing the next three Mondays on A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime. Check your local listings for specific time and channel. 


Mr. Selfridge Series 3 Episode 1 Review

*-This review contains spoilers from last night’s episode. Read at your own risk if you have not seen it.

After what seems like forever, the doors of Selfridges have opened once more.

The season starts with the interesting juxtaposition of life and death. The opening scene is the funeral of Rose Selfridge (Frances O’Connor).  The story then jumps ahead to the wedding of Rosalie Selfridge (Kara Tointon) to Serge de Bolotoff (Leon Ockenden). What seems like young love will turn into a bumpy road, not just for Rosalie, but for the entire family. There are rumors that Harry (Jeremy Piven) is considering buying a piece of empty land in West London and using that land to build an airline hanger. Nancy Webb (Kelly Adams) convinces Harry to use that land build homes for veterans who are begging on the street.

Among the staff, things have changed. Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) and Henri LeClair (Gregory Fitoussi) are as happy as they were at the close of the last series, but the residual effects from the war are still with Henri. Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington) is not sure if she wanted to return to the store after a prolonged absence, but the store needs her. Kitty (Amy Beth Hayes) and Frank (Samuel West) are also newlyweds while Mr. Grove (Tom Goodman Hill) and Mr. Crabb (Ron Cook) worry about the store’s bottom line and the emotional roller coaster that their boss is going through.

I like this show. Harry is a dynamic, multifaceted character with many layers.  As the seasons have progressed and the store has brought success to Harry, it has not changed him. But life has. The death of his wife, his children growing up,  the war, the changes in staff and the changes in their lives has made the show more watchable as it has progressed.

I recommended this show from the first episode and I will continue to recommend it.

Mr. Selfridge airs Sunday at 9pm on PBS.

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