Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 05, 2008

A May Masterpiece,Cranford is a crackling good visual read

PBS is not yet done with their Masterpiece Classic series,folks. Last night,part one of Cranford aired and it's really worth watching.

Based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novel(which is more of a set of interconnected short stories),the main character of the piece is the small village of Cranford and it's largely female population living in the 1840s of country side England. Here, old school manners are firmly enforced and influences from the outside world are something to be avoided at all costs.

The first outsider to enter the story is Mary Smith(Lisa Dillon),who visits the Jenkyns sisters in order to stop putting up with her pushy stepmother's matchmaking attempts.

Matilda(Judi Dench)has the sweeter temperament while her sister Deborah(Eileen Atkins) is more set and steadfast in her ways. Deborah finds even discussing more than one way to properly eat an orange on the verge of being vulgar and finds The
Pickwick Papers,which is a book recommendation from a new neighbor,to be too much of a "popular" taste to read.

Other local residents include Miss Pole(Imelda Staunton),the town gossip,Lady Ludlow
(Francesca Annis)who insists that her only living son will someday come home to attend the annual garden party on their estate and another new arrival,young doctor Frank Harrison (Simon Woods) who has already set several hearts a-fluttering with hopes of romance.

Least you think that is a prim and proper plot that is drier than a Thanksgiving wishbone(or,as one of my sister's friends would say "A British coma"),just take a gander at this scene that involves lace,a cat and a desperate retrieval of one of them(don't worry,the cat doesn't get hurt,I promise):

For such a small book,the plot packs a lot of drama as a number of potential romances go unfulfilled,class struggles emerge,fears that the safe circle of Cranford is about to be shattered seem all too real with news of the approaching railway and some rather unexpected deaths occur.

Of all of the characters,one of my favorites is Deborah Jenkyns,who is much more warmhearted and giving than anyone truly realizes. Beneath her restrained exterior lies a person who cares deeply about those around her and is willing to put aside society's stringent rules of decorum in times of great need:

If you missed part one, the PBS website has it available for online viewing. As for me,I'll be tuning in to next Sunday's episode,where worries about a growing crime wave in Cranford during Christmas time causes all kinds of fuss and follies:

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