1 April 2013 | gradyharp
A New British Series off to a bit of a muddling start
This week Masterpiece Theater introduces yet another series about early 19th century England and while the story is based on fact it seems less rigidly factual than simply a bouncing diving board for a new series that time will tell if it will last. The costumes are most assuredly the main character and for an introductory outing that seems to set the scene just fine.
The interest comes from the apparently true fact that this represents the tale of how London's Selfridge's Department store began. Harry Gordon Selfridge comes to London to establish a department store that understands what women want ' 'to go shopping.' After a brief moment in the standard London store Selfridge is put off by the stringent rules and regulations of just how people can purchase items in a store atmosphere (as opposed to scheduled meetings with personal tailors and dressmakers in private). Jeremy Piven sparkles in the role of the flamboyant optimist who doesn't seem to know the meaning of defeat and manages to pull off the opening of his glorious new store a year after he arrives. He loses, backing, finds backing form a wealthy Lady Mae and her husband, makes changes in the way employees are hired and treated, and falls in fancy with a chorus girl Miss Love (Zoë Tapper), befriends a salesgirl Agnes (Aisling Loftus) who lost her job when Selfridge visited her previous employer, greets his wife (Frances O'Connor) and family when they arrive from America to join him, and is privy to all manner of subplots that are always necessary if a series is going to be successful.
The story is a bit less than involving but the plots that are established (the variety of which remind us that the series is written by four writers and directed by four directors) offer suggestion that there will be some interesting derring-do, intrigue, criminal activity, love affairs, family squabbles - all those things that make continuing watching the series worth while. There are some fine actors involved - Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ron Cook, Grégory Fitoussi, Lauren Crace, Amanda Abbington, Amy Beth Hayes, Tom Goodman-Hill, Trystan Gravelle, Malcom Rennie, Deborah Cornelius, Kika Markham, Catherine Kelly and many more in this huge cast. The first episode is rich enough in subplots to keep us coming back for more.