From The Forthsyte Saga to Downton Abbey

up downUpstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama Television from “The Forthsyte Saga” to “Downton Abbey”  ($70 hard cover, $69.99 ebook so get it from your library) edited by James Leggott and Julie Anne Taddeo offers readers a means of considering their favorite imported shows with a slice of the scholarly. While the essays can be pedantic, none were hard to read and most made me consider new aspects of my favorite shows. I enjoyed the essays that examined Downton Abbey fanfiction, how shopping was glamorized and career women were portrayed in Mr Selfridge and The Paradise, and how something horrible (spoiler below*) was depicted and received in Poldark I didn’t read every essay, but no one has to. Pick and choose as you wish. The article by Andrea Schmict on Downton Abbey fanfiction has enticed me to explore FanFiction.net to see if there are any gems worth reading.

(I tend to expect fan fiction to be poorly written and not worth my time, but according to Schmidt there is some good writing to be found online. I don’t want to be a snob so I’ll read some. Share any suggestions below)

*Spoiler alert

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Mr Selfridge, Season 3, Finale – Part One

In the US, we got episodes 9 and 10 together for our finale. So I came to them with great anticipation. We’ve known that Nancy’s a con artist and that Loxley’s scheming to get even with Harry for helping Mae, his ex-wife, though Loxley’s so one dimensional, it annoys me. The less screen time he gets the better. Many viewers have read about Harry’s life in Woodhouse’s Shopping, Selfridge and Mr Selfridge and we know that after Rose died, Harry’s life began to unravel as he became more indulgent and reckless. So far this season we haven’t seen too much of that — yet.

Harry’s got a lot on the line as he’s started a price war to make good on the promise to his board to get them a 10% dividend. Loxley’s circling the waters hoping to bring Harry down. As for romance, Harry’s proposed to Nancy completely unaware that she’s a con artist. Granted she seems to be falling for Harry, but she’s still too cunning for my tastes. How I wish Mamma Selfridge or Princess Marie would go to the Information Bureau and have her looked up! Or Violette. She seems to have her suspicions.

This season isn’t the program’s best. It feels like they’ve gotten new writers to take over and they don’t have a sense of what viewers like me want. The episode begins with Harry showing everyone a warehouse of goods that they must sell so he can keep his board members happy. Everyone rises to the occasion, which does show a devotion to the game of retail and to Harry himself. It reminds me of The Paradise and I would get caught up in the glamor of shopping and sales. There was an art to this business, which is sadly fallen by the wayside.

Loxley, who’s name must be synonymous with unctuous, has a fit when he reads in the paper that Lady Mae, his ex-wife is going to get married. The scene came off as rather over-the-top in terms of emotion. Loxley is meant to be a character your hate, but mainly he’s become a caricature. He then calls a meeting with two board members who for some reason see him as worth listening to. Why? The man’s clearly unscrupulous and was losing money himself until he started profiteering. Harry stops a supplier from overcharging Nancy who’s buying lumber for houses she didn’t plan to build. In the car to the store she admires his bargaining prowess. He’s saved her. Swoon. Then things go pear-shaped as the car approaches the store. Protestors outside pelt Harry and Nancy with eggs. If you don’t like a business practice, boycott the sale. There’s no reason to get nasty. But this barbarism results in Harry deciding he needs a new head of security and since George needs a new job . . .

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Mr Selfridge, Finale – Part 2

Though I’m glad Nancy Webb’s identity and motive were revealed, there was so much I couldn’t abide in the last part of the finale.

  1. Why, oh why, does Violette feel doomed to marry Jacques, the aviator? She can do better. Anyone could. She hasn’t tried to find love other than Victor.
  2. Why did Victor send Violette away? Just last week he was frolicking with her in the grass waxing eloquent about wanting a nice home.
  3. Boy, did Rosalie get little to do this season. Sergei got a bit more, but in the end wasn’t much.
  4. Why do we have sequence after sequence where in one scene someone mentions how a person must fight for their love, and the next scene shows a character doing just that. Can we get a bit of sophistication with our drama, please?
  5. The ending emotion and music was soooo flat-footed and heavy-handed it bordered on schmaltz if I understand Yiddish correctly.
  6. Miss Mardle plans to move all of a sudden. If she want’s to quit fine, but why leave a nice house? London’s big. She wouldn’t have to see Grove.
  7. Oh, then I saw it – Miss Mardle, who was a tower of strength for most of the episode is now back with Grove because he held a sit in in her foyer. Really? It wasn’t the least bit romantic, just stubborn and pathetic. She could do better. Now she’ll have to mother his brood? Or will she just be his mistress again?
  8. And, of course, after confronting Nancy, who begs for a reconciliation, which I was at least glad she didn’t get, Harry heads to Victor’s club, which we can now see was converted to a gambling den just for this purpose. Dun, dun, dun, dun–enter the Dolly Sisters with so much make up you can guess they used spatulas. Ladies and gentlemen, who’ve read Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge, we all know that these women will be nothing but trouble for Harry. His downfall must come, but so soon? And with bald, in your face music and dialog? Don’t the writers know that Masterpiece viewers are a sharp bunch that can deal with subtlety. We thrive on it.

Mr Selfridge Poll #2

Another Selfridge poll:

What do you think?

Favorite Mr Selfridge Character

Note: Since new actresses are playing Violette and Rosalie I’ve included them.

Mr. Selfridge, Season 3, Ep. 6

SPOILER ALERT

A lot happened this week!

I can’t believe they killed off Doris! Was this necessary? She’s been off screen for two years, married to an ungrateful whiner. They bring her back and reveal that an indiscretion with a school friend, has resulted in her first son and a lie to her husband Mr. Groves.

Doris confided in Miss Mardle, who was involved with Mr Groves before Doris came into the picture. Miss Mardle suggested Doris talk with this friend and let him see his son. Now what will happen? Yes, killing Doris in a car accident opens up a lot of possibilities with the story, but she doesn’t have to resolve this with Mr. Groves. He can now whine some more and perhaps get back with Josie, a.k.a Miss Mardle. I’d hope she doesn’t fall back in with Groves. She’d have to quit her job, which is fine for the right man, to take care of his brood, which doesn’t seem her strong suit. I think she’d go crazy at home, taking care of small children.

This week against Mr. Crabb’s advice, Harry sells some of his shares in the store so he can build a number of homes for WWI veterans. Now he doesn’t have a majority stake (as was the case with the real Harry). Nancy’s conning Harry and stringing him along. So he’s going to lose big soon. The Nancy story isn’t recounted in Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction, & Mr Selfridge so I don’t think it’s historical. It is suspenseful, but I’d like to see Harry less of a victim. The season began with Rose’s funeral, now this? I know the real Mr Selfridge wound up penniless, but I wish they’d postpone that. I do hope Nancy and her partner get their just desserts, i.e. jail time. I wish Mama Selfridge would look into Nancy Webb through the store’s information bureau.

Gordon hired, Pierre Longchamp to replace Henri. (I do miss Henri and Agnes. Again, I think they could have enriched the story by staying.) Longchamp’s arrogant and individualistic. He’s quite creative, but doesn’t think how his ideas and lack of communication impact the store. Gordon made a major faux pas by approving Pierre’s window display. It was to include something French. Rather than seeming out of it and asking for particulars, the newly promoted and very green, Gordon gave Pierre carte blanche. Little did he know he was approving a window featuring women in their undies. Quite a scandal for the era! Mr. Groves saw the trouble brewing and gleefully waited for disaster. Yet it was averted as the striking window brought in the crowds.

Pierre seems less refined and far more arrogant and immature than Henri, or anyone who should run this department. He’ll bring more trouble to Selfridge’s I fear. In this episode he just annoyed me, though his tree display was clever.

Despite her father telling her to stay out of trouble and avoid Victor, defiant Violette can’t help but rebel. When she spoke of not having a purpose, Harry did convince her to help Nancy with the homes for veterans. At first she wanted to do something administrative, but Nancy wants no one looking too closely at this con so she had Violette organize a charity dance, which was a big success. As the party round down Violette slipped off to see Victor, but was turned away at the door. She doesn’t seem like a woman who takes no for an answer though. I do wonder what’ll happen when Violette discovers Nancy’s a con artist. I’d like to see her take on Nancy. It’d be a good way for Violette to come into her own and not be a rich, bratty vixen. She was such a quiet girl in the previous seasons.

Victor might as well join the mafia. He’s continuing on the slippery slope with his night club. So much for the Italian restaurant he was going to start last year. Now for him to open he has to pay the dirty cop three times what was asked earlier. Rather than going out of business, he agrees to let Mike Reagan open a gambling den in the back. George is shocked when he finds out. I think he should go back to work for Harry since Victor’s place is sure to be raided again.

Mr Selfridge: On Shell Shock

henri

As poor Henri LeClair battles against shell shock, here’s a BBC radio program, The Essay that focuses on this problem. Evidently, officer’s dealing with mental effects of the war were diagnosed with shell shock while privates were thought to be nuts or just malingering.

The Essay is a radio program featuring essays by writers on a myriad of topics, i.e. whatever tickles their fancy. I think I’ve discovered a little mine full of radio gems.