Friday, January 14, 2011

Masterpiece at 40!

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Masterpiece, no longer, but still thought of as Theatre. Masterpiece Theatre brought the best of British Broadcasting and period dramas to the United States, long before technology allowed us to have easy access to, what I view, as the best television in the world. Today, over at The Daily Beast, Jace Lacob is talking about those shows polled as the best, Upstairs Downstairs, Prime Suspect, Downton Abbey, Bleak House, Sherlock, Jeeves and Wooster, Cranford, The Politician's Wife, The Forsyte Saga, House of Cards, Our Mutual Friend and Traffik. I of course, happened to notice, that this did not actually coincide with the poll which I eagerly watched when Derek Jacobi counted it down, not least of all cause some of these shows came way after the poll and were inserted to show their continuing excellence. Because I voted in this poll and, probably ended up being the one who rigged The Forsyte Saga into winning second place, I want to set the record straight. I also want to say a few things about these beloved shows, but first a little Masterpiece rant. PBS used to be the only place that showcased these fine shows, that is no longer the case. From BBC America to cable channels willing to spotlight British Broadcasting, the American love of all things British has never dwindled, yet PBS has. They now edit shows for content and time, Downton Abbey being a case in point. Instead of having the show naturally develop over seven weeks they hacked and slashed it to make it four episodes. No matter if these are "improvements" according to them. This show was written in 45 minute arcs, no more, no less. PBS has become a joke. In a day and age when technology makes these show available sooner and other outlets are moving with the times they need to step it up. BBC America has same day airing of Doctor Who but we have to wait YEARS for shows to make it to PBS. They have become lazy and all the greatness of these shows is due to the BBC, not Rebecca Eaton, who is hanging onto their coattails trying to make it look like she has made a contribution. They may show the best, but it's a paired down best that lacks the greatness of Russell Baker and instead relies on "star value" to sell these shows with little quippy intros of no depth or historical bearing, this doesn't apply to you Alan Cumming, I love you. But enough about my rant, which doesn't even touch on the fact the old Mystery intro needs to be brought back... here are the top twelve shows as counted down by Derek Jacobi, not inaccurately reported by Jace Lacob.

12) Jeeves and Wooster: Sheer brilliance. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were MADE to play these roles.

11) Wives and Daughters: One of my favorite miniseries ever. There is just one flaw, in that Roger and Molly don't have a romantic kiss... but I'll overlook that, most of the time. Andrew Davies is a genius and this is even better than Pride and Prejudice. Yep, you heard me right! Better than P and P, yes, Michael Gambon, take that victory lap.

10) Moll Flanders: Alex Kingston is awesome in the fun frolicking romp, too band the really bad music detracts from the awesome. Also Daniel Craig in a long flowing wig, so funny.

9) Reckless: I admit, I haven't watched it all, because my DVR messed up, but what I saw was really great, how could it not be with this cast? Francesca Annis, Robson Green and Michael Kitchen!

8) House of Cards: You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

7) Poldark: Cornwall and shipwrecks!

6) Jewel in the Crown: After Brideshead, this set the standard for what could be done with period drama willing to move outside the studio.

5) Prime Suspect: What made Helen Mirren a star, and rightfully so. Also, the first instance of PBS editing for content. The first of the slippery slope.

4) Bleak House: Which I have made my peace with. I will no longer be bashing it, yes it is awesome, as long as you don't watch the last episode. I mean WTF! It's dark, it's atmospheric and then, happy ever after garden party time.

3) I, Claudius: Not really my thing, but made some many stars.

2) The Forsyte Saga: The best miniseries ever hands down. It's almost too painful to watch with it's raw emotions and superb acting. Just be prepared to cry. A lot.

1) Upstairs, Downstairs: The standard. What BBC television is, was and shall ever be. If you haven't ever watched it, I feel sad for your pathetic little lives.


The Forsyte Saga is excellent, I agree hands down. I remember when I first caught it on PBS, it was like 1/2 way through the newer set, and I hounded the library until they got copies so I could watch it ALL as it should be watched.

And -- don't hurt me -- I've never watched Wives and Daughters. It's in my Netflix instant queue, just haven't done it yet. Clearly I need to rectify that.

Instant cue means you can watch it RIGHT NOW :P

Oh, I have loved Master Piece for years. I Claudius is my all time favorite. I loved the new Sherlock that aired earlier this winter.

Oh yes Sari, I adored the new Sherlock. Still have to watch all I Claudius one of these days...

I do love Wives and Daughters! Also a major fan of the Persuasion adaptation that aired a few years ago starring Sally Hawkins and some hot blond guy as Capt. Wentworth.

The new Sherlock is cool.

I do NOT have cable so settle for what PBS manages to funnel down to me.

Well then Lora, you'd be in the camp of do better PBS! Espcially seeing as they edited Persuasion when it aired. Captain Wentworth had a whole lot of scenes missing from the original BBC broadcast. Also that hottie is Rupert Penry-Jones, mmm I love him.

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