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Feb 11

Lark Rise to Candleford

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Historic, Reviews, TV series

Some time after I watched Cranford (see earlier review), I discovered another tv series set in nineteenth century Britain. In fact, it reminded me of Cranford, not merely because the two names Cranford/Candleford are similar. Like Cranford, this series is set in nineteenth century England (though roughly half a century later.)

The initial premise is smiliar too. A young woman, Laura Timmins, moves to live with an older woman – in this case her mother’s cousin, Dorcas Lane – to work in miss Lane’s post office, in a small town.

Again, like Cranford, this series is both funny and sad and most of all interesting. It too features a number of memorable characters, mainly female. In fact, that’s one of the few complaints I have. While there are.a few interesting male characters, the great majority are female.

Apart from Laura, the main character, and her relative and boss, Dorcas Lane, there are their two neighbours, Pearl and Ruby Pratt who own a shop selling the latest fashion, sometimes all the way from Paris. They are perhaps not exactly pleasant, but interesting and have their secrets, some of which are exposed in season 2 (which is as far as I’ve watched).

One of my favorites is Queenie (who lives in the hamlet Lark Rise, that Laura comes from). Queenie is easily the most likeable character in the whole series. She’s a wise old woman, who keeps bees, grows herbs and vegetables in her garden and knows much about healing. Over the years she’s taken in children and raised them as her own. Sadly, Queenie was never able to have children of her own. She lives with her common law husband (later they marry, properly in church), Twister. Twister is a bit excentric, perhaps going senile. He’s a good man, but he leaves the responsibilities of running their household entirely to Queenie.

Another favorite is Minnie, a girl taken in by Dorcas Lane, to train as kitchen maid. Minnie is funny, charming and filled with wide-eyed curiosity about her new world. She listens attentively and picks up new, long words like ‘extra-ordinary’ and learns to use them. Minnie, like many of the other characters, has her own dark back story, but despite all that, she remains happy and outgoing.

Mailman Thomas Brown, strict Christian, comes across as rather rigid and cold, but hides a heart of gold under his strict exterior.

Finally, I’d like to mention James Dowland – another favorite of mine. He shows up early in season 2 and he and Dorcas Lane end up arguing about just about everything, but it’s obvious that they’re attracted to each other. I won’t go into what happens between them. I will only mention that he’s one of Queenie’s foster children, who’s left Lark Rise, gone to London and returned to his native Oxfordshire, having made a fortune. James too has his secrets, but again, I won’t spoil the series for those who haven’t seen it. There are plenty of other interesting characters, but I think this will do as an example. If you like historic series, I can definitely recommend it.

Feb 11

Desperate Romantics

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Historic, Reviews, TV series

Desperate Romantics is another tv series set in the nineteenth century. It’s about the so called PreRaphaelite Brotherhood – a group of artists and poets who decided to challenge the current ideals of beauty and launched a new painting style (among other things). In private, many of them led tumultuous lives. They drank, took drugs, were involved with prostitutes and had affairs with each other’s wives. The series is narrated by a friend of the artists – Fred Walters – (I’m not sure if this man existed in real life or is a convenient invention to tell the story).

There’s a lot of sex and drama, and a bit of history, especially art history, but my remaining impression is the sad situation faced by women in those days. They either had to lead sheltered, anemic, boring lives or risk losing their reputations and end up as prostitutes. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (from a family of famous artists and poets) seems to have been a sex addict, chasing prostitutes and barmaids, as well as his own models, some of which were prostitutes and barmaids, but he married a young milliner’s assistant, Elizabeth Siddal. She becomes Rossetti’s model, wants to become an artist like him, but is frustrated both by the lack of interest in her work and her husband’s constant infidelity, and later dies of a drug overdose. It’s pretty much all like that. You get to see a lot of Aidan Turner’s naked body, and believe me, I’m not complaining about that, but also all those women. It made me sad.

All the men, except John Millais, who had his own premarital problems, were more or less in love with the same women, but usually the charismatic Rossetti had the best luck with them. For years he had an affair with his friend and ‘brother’ William Morris’ wife, apparently with Morris’ full approval.

At the beginning of the series, the ‘brothers’ are trying to get the art establishment’s attention and eventually are able to gain the famous critic Ruskin’s approval. Ruskin is married to a frustrated young woman, Effie, but apparently he hasn’t consummated the marriage – he finds the female form unattractive. During the course of the series, it’s suggested that he might be a paedophile, but he strenuously denies the accusation. Perhaps he was what today would be termed ‘asexual’, but on the other hand, who would admit to being a paedophile? In the later part of the series, Ruskin goes everywhere with a young art student of his, a fourteen-year-old girl. Effie has the marriage annulled, after a humiliating physical examination to confirm the fact that she is still a virgin. Soon after, John Millais marries her. Apparently their marriage is both normal and happy and in the end they have eight children (but you don’t get to see that in the series). As far as I can tell, it deals with about ten years of the ‘brotherhood’s career.

The only really likeable character in this series is John Millais, and I suspect that’s partly because he’s not really a main character. He was never the rebel the others were, and even from early in his career gained recognition by the art establishment.

The others, especially Rossetti, claim to understand women, but end up hurting their feelings, through lack of understanding of their situation. Ultimately all the women, except Effie, formerly Ruskin, later Millais, are more or less unhappy.

Feb 11


Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Classics, Historic, Reviews, TV series

I’ve always liked historic series/movies/books and whenever there’s something like that on tv, I want to watch it. Cranford was no exception. The series was on a few years ago, and after it ended I read that there would be a ‘Christmas special’. I was hoping we’d get to see that too, but the Christmas of 2009 came and went and there was nothing like that. Fortunately, I had more luck last Christmas (2010). At least I assume it was the ‘Christmas special’ we got to watch.

At first I thought the tv adaption was focusing a little too much on (unintentional?) humour. Despite that, I found it interesting though rather sad. Some of the characters were really likeable, others less so, but still interesting and/or funny and definitely real and believable. Undoubtedly this was partly due to the cast. I’d especially like to mention Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie and Imelda Staunton, but the others too, famous or not so famous, did a great job.

Cranford is a little town in mid-nineteenth century England. It struggles with the changes their country is going through, not convinced that all change is for the better. For instance, railways are considered a threat. In the end, though, the people of Cranford find that nothing can stand in the way of ‘progress’ and perhaps they were wrong to try. The town is populated by a number of memorable people. Especially the women are described in detail.

At the beginning of the series, two elderly sisters, Misses Deborah and Matty Jenkyns, invite a young woman, Mary Smith, daughter of a friend of theirs, to come and live with them. You get to see Cranford and its inhabitants through her eyes. I suspect she’s the author’s alter ego. (I understand that Cranford is based on a series of books by a woman named Elizabeth Gaskell. I haven’t read them, but I think I might like to.)

Looking back on the series, my strongest impression is that it’s mostly about women who have never married, are widowed or whose prospects of marriage are poor, either because of lack of money or connections. Another theme seems to be the position of women in nineteenth century Britain.

Jun 26

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2008 in Humour, Reviews

British tv series are usually very good. Even some comedies can be good, though there’s no guarantee. Some are very strange, looking at them from a Swedish point of view. One that I appreciated a lot while it was still on, was The Vicar of Dibley. It’s about a female vicar in a horrid little village in England. The vicar is played by hysterically funny Dawn French.

That was quite a few years ago, but more recently, there was another, newer series – The Amazing Mrs Pritchard. Here’s another incredibly funny woman. The main character is played by Jane Horrocks who’s been in several other sitcoms. In this one, she plays the manager of a shop, who by accident gets into politics and ends up suddenly becoming the Prime Minister of Britain.

It’s really hard to keep from laughing, but it’s not only a comedy. I think the writers have been able to get in a couple of digs against the political system and all stupid old customs in it.

Unfortunately for Mrs Pritchard, she hadn’t quite realized how thoroughly a politician, and worst of all, her family, get vetted. Her husband has a skeleton in the closet and her eldest daughter screws up too. Among other things, she poses in the nude, which gets blown up out of proportion, literally. One morning there’s a giant image of her projected against the House of Parliament.

Her dad has made a bigger mistake, and unfortunately, he can’t stop himself from telling his daughter, who ends up telling her mother, and that’s the end of a brief success story. Mr Pritchard is played by Steven Mackintosh, who’s been in several tv-series and movies. A very good actor. The girl who plays the youngest daughter is very funny. The older one is pretty funny too, but I can’t help thinking she was picked mainly because of her looks.

Several minor roles are interesting too. You get to see many familiar faces. Mostly women, but there’s also a really cute young man, who has an affair with a considerably older woman.

In any case, this is a short series of few episodes, that most people should be able to follow.


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