18th-century England and Ireland viewed through the eyes of four beautiful high-born sisters - Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, great-granddaughters of a king, daughters of a cabinet minister, and wives of politicians and peers.
Based on a little known 1848 novel by Anne Bronte, Tara Fitzgerald stars as an enigmatic young woman who moves to 19th Century Yorkshire with a young son. Distancing herself from everyone ... See full summary »
At the center of the story is Augustus Melmotte, a European-born city financier, whose origins are as mysterious as his business dealings. Trollope describes him as 'something in the city',... See full summary »
Set in Victorian London, Gwendolen Harleth is drawn to Daniel Deronda, a selfless and intelligent gentleman of unknown parentage, but her own desperate need for financial security may destroy her chance at happiness.
The daughter of a country doctor copes with an unwanted stepmother, an impetuous stepsister, burdensome secrets, the town gossips, and the tug on her own heartstrings for a man who thinks of her only as a friend.
This Masterpiece Theatre production, set at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, chronicles the life, loves, foibles and politics of the fictional English town of Middlemarch. Adapted ... See full summary »
In the 1840s, Cranford is ruled by the ladies. They adore good gossip; and romance and change is in the air, as the unwelcome grasp of the Industrial Revolution rapidly approaches their beloved rural market-town.
A highly recommended entry in the BBC mini-series genre, "Berkeley Square" holds its own with "Pride and Prejudice," "The Pallisers" and "Upstairs, Downstairs". Lovers of Victorian/ Edwardian-era costume dramas will especially enjoy it. Although it lacks the budget and polish of "The Grand", "Brideshead Revisited", and "Duchess of Duke Street" (and the plot intricacies of "Upstairs- Downstairs") it's friendship theme among the three main characters and its mood of subtle nuance more than compensate.
I must confess a favorable bias as I was fond of taking my lunch in mid-1970's Berkeley Square during my time in London and have very pleasant associations with the location. It is a real square with houses on all sides of a small park.
The mini-series takes place in 1902, a Victorian to Edwardian transitional time begun with the coronation of the new King. Although class differences are a feature of the program the real focus is on three young nannies/nursery-maids just beginning work for three prominent families on the square. This is the strength of the series as the three television actresses are perfectly cast physically for the compare and contrast dynamic that pulls the three parallel story lines together.
Mattie (Clare Wilkie) is the only Londoner, a no-nonsense East Ender who has already worked her way up the domestic career ladder. Her brother calls her Sarge because she has always been controlling. The Sinjin family is the most challenging of the three households, the cook and head housekeeper being politically savvy, the nursery maid Pringle being resentful, and Mrs. Sinjin carrying on a turgid flirtation with a slimy officer. This moronic romance is the worst aspect of the entire series. Fortunately Mattie has her own action going with the new footman, their relationship has a high-energy mentally combative quality that holds your interest.
Hannah (Victoria Smurfit) just moved from Yorkshire with her baby following the death of her upper class lover. Smurfit is the reason I began watching the series, having really enjoyed her nicely over-the-top performance in "Bulletproof Monk". While her Polish landlady minds the baby Hannah lives-in at the Hutchinson household and takes care of young Bertie (Adam Hayes). Their touching scenes together are terrific, the best segments in the series. Since the directing of the other child actors is not especially good, it is likely that Smurfit was responsible for getting such a perfect performance from young Hayes. Her regal look (she reminds me of Fay Masterson) is an asset in this role, as she must convincingly face off against upper class adversaries and she allows just the right amount of hidden strength to surface in these confrontations.
Lydia (Tabitha Wady) is a horse-faced country girl who moved to London to escape the trap of the poor farmer. She is there to assist an elderly nanny who first feels threatened but eventually comes to appreciate Lydia's earthy openness, even her immature personality. Once secure in her new household Lydia must confront the reality of being a homely girl with little sincere attentions from men.
"Berkeley Square" has just 10 episodes of about 50 minutes. Unlike "The Prisoner" it appears that they intended to produce more and unlike "Freaks and Geeks" they did not have adequate advance notice of the early termination. Although it ends at an obvious season break point (so major stuff is resolved), there are some loose ends remaining after the last episode. This is not all bad, they stopped before they ran out of ideas and the loose ends make for interesting speculation.
The DVD package is minimalist, without any useful special features. The marginal quality of the audio tracks cry out for captions although I don't envy someone trying to transcribe the least audible of this stuff.
Bottom line it is a very entertaining series with fast sequencing and nice performances (especially from Smurfit-watch for the scene where they picnic in the country and Lydia becomes jealous of Hannah-Lydia insults her and the reaction shots of Hannah's exasperation are priceless).
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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