Tag Archives: BBC

Parade’s End

23 Jul

paradesend One is obliged when discussing a post-Edwardian costume drama to compare it with Downton Abbey, so let’s get that over with. Yes, this five-part British miniseries is staged against the backdrop of the Great War, teems with pretty dresses and simmers with romantic tension, but there the comparison ends. Where Downton sallies into schmaltzy soap opera territory (in a highly addictive way, let’s admit), Parade’s End remains stark, cold and brutal.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) stars as priggish aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, a brilliant government statistician desperately clinging to conservative Edwardian values as his beloved Britain is rocked by war and social upheaval.

paradesend_pic Frustrated by his moral rectitude, his charmingly flippant wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall, pictured with Cumberbatch), a stunning Catholic socialite, torments him by boasting about her many lurid love affairs. He endures her infidelity with a stiff upper lip but his own feelings are thrown into conflict when he meets Valentine Wannop (Australian actor Adelaide Clemens, Love My Way), a feisty young suffragette with cropped blonde hair and a passion for social change.

Based on the novels by Ford Madox Ford and adapted by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love), Parade’s End depicts the end of an era, sweeping us from glorious British landscapes and aristocratic drawing rooms into the mud and blood-spattered trenches of France, as Christopher wrestles with his sense of duty both to his country and his marriage. The upper classes depicted here may not make any attempts to befriend their butlers, but impeccable period details and a stellar cast led by the inimitable Cumberbatch make this a highly watchable and thoughtful alternative to Downton‘s frothy fare.

M, 2013, 360 minutes, BBC/HBO

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Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple

23 Jul

missmarple Joan Hickson stars as the titular character in this Agatha Christie television series made in the 1980s. Featuring three murder mysteries, this three-disc collection opens with the three-part Body in the Library, where Miss Marple is called in to help after her friend Dolly Bantry discovers the body of a peroxide blonde young woman in her house. However, it is not until a second body turns up that the case takes an unexpected turn.

In The Moving Finger, Miss Marple visits the seemingly peaceful village of Lymston to investigate a nasty case of poison pen letters. Is it a local gossip venting her spleen or is the motive far more sinister?

In A Murder is Announced, the townsfolk are amused to read a notice in the local paper announcing that a murder will take place next Friday at 7pm. However the party game turns terrifying when a real corpse turns up, and no one seems to be telling the truth.

Compared to more recent productions, this series looks a little dated but at 400 minutes of playing time, it certainly offers good value. Described as the “definitive Miss Marple”, Joan Hickson seems born to play the spinster detective, with her faded blue eyes and deceptively fluffy exterior.

While recent Miss Marples including Geraldine McEwan and Julie McKenzie have won accolades, Hickson is probably the only actor to boast of receiving a letter from Christie herself, expressing a wish that she play the coveted role.

PG, 400 mins, BBC