4 items from 2014
Airs: PBS; Sundays through Sept. 7
About: It’s not too late to catch up with this luscious six-part “Masterpiece Theater” entry set among a group of doctors and nurses at a London hospital in 1961. Jack Davenport is a commanding presence as a brilliant-but-tortured nurse-chasing surgeon who performs abortions in secret at a time when birth-control pills were available to only married women — if their husbands gave consent. Creator Paul Unwin, a British drama vet, was inspired to use a medical setting to look at the shoddy treatment of women in Britain during this period.
Quote: “I became fascinated by those American dramas that are like novels,” Unwin says, “where every episode, you get enough of the story, but you don’t get the whole thing. ‘Breathless’ (also) was born out of an interest in trying to write stories about women.”
- Variety Staff
Doctors and nurses have been engaged in soapy doings since broadcasting’s infancy, but seldom in a package quite as tantalizing as “Breathless.” Set in the early ‘60s, this three-part “Masterpiece” production obviously shares certain qualities with “Mad Men,” but quickly establishes its own spin on the era replete with a web of interlocking relationships. Built around a dashing gynecologist who performs illegal abortions, the project feels timely and provocative, but can just as easily be savored strictly for its “Peyton Place”-like attributes. For those needing a fix of sumptuous British period drama until “Downton Abbey” docks, “Breathless” is a breath of fresh air.
The producers won half the battle by casting Jack Davenport (closer to “Swingtown,” happily, than his “Smash” ordeal) as Dr. Otto Powell, who appears to saunter through life with nary a care despite breaking the law to assist women with terminating unwanted pregnancies. Assured and self-confident, »
- Brian Lowry
Masterpiece has just confirmed that erstwhile Homeland star Damian Lewis will play Henry VIII opposite Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in upcoming miniseries Wolf Hall. The adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies is a Company Pictures and Playground co-production for BBC Two and Masterpiece. Peter Kosminsky (White Oleander) is directing the six-part drama from a script by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). The story charts Cromwell’s meteoric rise from lowly blacksmith’s son to Henry VIII’s closest advisor. Deadline reported in January that Lewis was in talks to play the Tudor King. The confirmed roster of actors now includes Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn; Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey; Joanne Whalley as Katherine of Aragon; Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss as Stephen Gardiner, Secretary to the King; Anton Lesser as Thomas More; Mathieu Amalric as »
- NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor
4 items from 2014
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