I have always enjoyed the PBS special bios or historical series. Not since the award winning, Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson back in the 70’s, have I been as mesmerized as I am with Wolf Hall, the story of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and that whole era. Unfortunately, as of last Sunday, Season 1 has just wrapped up. I am sure you can catch up on the Internet or watch repeats when Season 2 opens.
Another wonderful series is the fictionalized biography of the first department store developer in England, Mr. Selfridge. We are in season 3 as I type. This is well worth the time. It begins in pre-war England when Harry arrives from Chicago with big ideas. Soon, his family follows and his colorful, sometimes risky, and always innovative life unfolds. Jeremy Piven stars.
The Paradise is a fictional Emile Zola based series that also deals with the drama of running and building a retail empire. This is clearly a rip-off of Mr. Selfridge but you won’t care because it is so beautiful and scenic. The themes sometimes seem a bit off for the period and almost as if they are not true to the historical era, but I still find myself taping it and watching it while the other series are in hiatus.
The lapse in the script/topic/setting correctness beats the salacious sex, extreme violence and gore shown on other cable channels that just depress me and I am sure add to the decline of any decency left. The feeling of “comfortably numb” seems to be part of the equation. I suppose if we are all jacked up on prescribed meds there is no need for outrage.
Am I dating myself or did I already do that when I mentioned Glenda Jackson? Both, you say. Hmmmm. There is something to be said for the lack of actual skin and pornography. We still know that there are wanton love affairs going on but we don’t have to be invited into the bedroom. Thank God. I am bone weary of the deliberate and explicit carnage too. I know corruption, cruelty, war, loss of life, pain and betrayal are part of the plots on PBS but I don’t have to vomit when I watch it.
Many of the same actors from Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge are on Wolf Hall. It is entertaining to see them in different roles. But it is the quality and class of these programs that draws us in, time after time.
And I don’t have to close my eyes, look away or turn the volume off.