Spoilers after the jump. If you haven't seen it, read up to the "read more" button.
Yes yes, we know this show's entire first season aired on the BBC, but Americans are just now getting to it. Two episodes have aired on PBS, American home of this show's twin, Downton Abbey. We are going to watch it at a U.S. pace.
Man, was this show long. The premiere was one hour and 50 minutes. The second episode is nearly 50 minutes long. But once you get into it, it goes quickly. The second episode rushed by in no time. The first half of the pilot took a little while to get used to.
This show is about an American, Harry Selfridge, in London in 1909. He's a businessman who wants to build a brash, great department store called Selfridges. He does so and opens it, hiring beautiful men and women to run it, and hooking up with society's elite to get funds and connections.
So it's like Downton Abbey, only it's a store instead of a manor. There are a lot of characters too, but we found it easier to keep them straight than when we first started watching Downton. Like that show, it looks great. The fashion and set pieces are Victorian and loads of fun.
BBC didn't skimp on the beautiful women this time. The girl playing Ellen Love blows Michelle Dockery's looks out of the water. Most of them men are more than decent too. No stand out hotties like Branson yet though. Jeremy Piven is alright as the lead. Some lines come out a little wrong, but Piven has the presence needed for the role. He's a flamboyant, loud actor with no subtlety who is playing a bold man with confidence to spare. It works.
This show is a little more...scandalous?...than Downton. There are more forbidden trysts and more manipulators. It's like Downton Abbey meets Mad Men. This is a compliment. While comparisons to Downton are inevitable, this show has its own tone and stands up favorably against the powerhouse. It's a good thing to watch while we are waiting for the Crawleys and their servants to return.
It's less soapy and ridiculous than Downton so far too. The writing is pretty good. There are enough sympathetic characters that we have someone to root for, but this is a show full of charming anti-heroes. Overall, we enjoyed these episodes, but we aren't addicted yet. We need more stakes and more excitement. We'll give the show more time.
Episode 1 grade: B+, Episode 2 grade: B
If you have seen the episode, read more.
Just one spoiler-y note: We had hoped from Harry's hesitance to flirt with Ellen that he would be immune to her charms. It's much more interesting to watch a guy resistant to temptation. We've seen TV before, so we know why middle-aged men cheat. It's a mixture of what looks like insurmountable horniness and the need to feel like "a man."
At this point, there are so many "studs" on TV that a faithful man might be more interesting. That's one reason we liked House of Cards. That show featured an open marriage. The honesty was one form of loyalty that was more intriguing than blatant adultery. But Harry and Ellen went a predictable way.
We are far more interested in Mrs. Selfridge's new love interest. He's pretty hot. We know why middle-aged women cheat too. To feel valued and to feel an emotional connection. But a love affair born of emotional passion and loneliness rather than just the physical makes for much more gripping TV. Getcha some, Rose. Gecha some.
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