Sunday night PBS brought two of their period dramas to the end of their seasons. One is the new drama Mr. Selfridge about a driven, optimistic American businessman who opens a classy department store in the staid London world of the years before World War I. The other, Call the Midwives, in its second season ended with dramas (births) and several cliffhangers.
I had reservations when I watched the first episode of Mr. Selfridge, which is loosely based on a true story, mostly because of the casting of Jeremy Piven (winner of 3 Emmy awards for Entourage on HBO), but his fast-talking glibness has become less annoying, and in the final episodes where he loses a few battles, he has shown a depth I didn't suspect. Harry Selfridge is a man who believes in himself and in making things work, particularly for profit. As he rises in the commercial world, he has the most successful store in London where stage stars, lords and ladies, and even the King of England shop. Unfortunately, Harry falls for a show girl who becomes the face of Selfridges and more for Harry. Meanwhile his wife Rose is intoxicated by the art scene, particulary the handsome man painting her portrait. Complications ensue until Sunday's episode in which everything comes tumbling down. There are many other intriguing plotlines as well and so many involve lovely Edwardian ladies and shop girls. If you haven't tried Mr. Selfridge, I suggest dvds or streaming. It's lovely to look at as well as a edifying look at Edwardian England outside a certain castle in the country.
Set in the 1950's in East London, Call the Midwives describes the challenges of a group of nuns and nurses who serve the poorest of families near the docks. The central character is Jenny Lee, who after adjusting to these harsh realities, becomes an excellent nurse and midwife, but it is not an easy journey. The series sports an array of women, from sprightly to nearly senile, cantankerous to loving. Their stories are intermingled with their clients, whose situations are often filled with pathos. What has impressed me most about the show are the actresses who play those clients. Each has been outstanding, wringing tears and laughter without cheap sentiment. I often wonder about acting awards, especially the Emmys. The actresses in Call the Midwives are far more capable than many American winners. Again, the first season is already available, and this second season should be soon.
A footnote: Mad Men. Sunday's episode brought the series a much needed spurt, primarily through an energy injection given to the butts (read that as you wish) of the ad guys and gals. Some went creative, some went romantic, and Don just went crazy. But at least it broke the malaise, I hope, of Don's continuing malaise!