Mr. Selfridge Is Back

Are you watching Mr. Selfridge? In the United States, PBS just started season two, and I’m thoroughly sucked in. It’s basically a period soap opera, akin the Downton Abbey, but set in the city instead of the country.

If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Selfridge, it’s about the London department store. Season one introduced us the American Harry Selfridge as he moves to London in 1908, butts heads with the British over his revolutionary retail concepts, and unveils his concept of modernity. Feminism, the emergence of makeup, and various celebrities both real and fictional are all key plot points.

The show relies on an ensemble cast full of amusing characters. There’s a little bit of an upstairs/downstairs theme going on. First you have the lowly shop girl who has ambition and a spark of creativity with her brother who works in the loading dock. The store’s management features heavily, including the Frenchman who is in charge of window displays and the chief of staff who is in a complicated romantic relationship with the head of accessories. And then you have the rich who shop at the store, financially back it, and socialize with Selfridge’s family.

And the costumes — well the costumes are great. They aren’t 100% historically accurate, but the show is a bit of a fantasy and over the top, so, appropriately, the costumes are too. Maybe it’s hypocritical of me to give this show a pass, but somehow it works for me.

Season two jumps to 1914, advancing many of the characters’ lives in interesting directions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I love how they are developing the story line. War is on the horizon, and trade unions are rising. And the relationships between the characters are all deepening. Everyone reaps what they sow from the previous season, both for better and worse.

If you need to catch up, season one is available on Amazon Instant Video (free if you have a Prime account!) or on iTunes. And PBS is only two episodes deep into season two, which is available on its website.

Tell me if you are watching! Who is your favorite character? Personally Agnes Towler and Henri Leclair were my favorites in season one, but I’ve got a growing affection for Kitty and Gordon Selfridge in season two.

P.S. No spoilers in the comments please!

A Post-Downton Distraction

image from Downton Abbey Season 3 Christmas episode, from The Jane Austen Film Club. SPOILERS IN THE LINK

Who else felt like they were punched in the gut after Sunday’s Downton Abbey? I promise no spoilers here, and ask everyone to please not leave any in the comments. But at this point it’s no secret that the ending left pretty much everyone distraught. I am starting to wish the show ended after three seasons like originally planned instead of continuing on for a fourth. Sigh.

After Downton ended, I noticed a preview for a new British period drama, Mr. Selfridge. I couldn’t really concentrate on it because I was in shock, but yesterday I looked that preview up online. I’m intrigued.

image from Mr. Selfridges, from The Arts Desk. SPOILERS IN THE LINK

Mr. Selfridge is about the founding of the British department store Selfridges during the late Edwardian Era. From the brief glances in the preview, it seems the costuming and hair look pretty good (maybe a little too much noticeable makeup), and it promises to be a gossipy drama.

It also reminded me that I have been meaning to read The Ladies’ Paradise, written by Émile Zola. The novel tells about the innovations of French department stores in the mid-nineteenth century.

Mr. Selfridge premieres in the United States in March on PBS. I’m looking forward to a new period drama to distract me from Downton‘s Season 3 ending. What do you think of this preview?