Recently, I sat and watched all eight episodes of the PBS Masterpiece Classics series in a couple of days. A little slow at first, soon the episodes emerged from my DVR like a treasure box with many new compartments to explore. Or, perhaps the better metaphor is like a giant department store with new delights integrated among the necessities.
The storyline is simple. A brash American played by Jeremy Piven arrives in staid London to turn cultured society on its ear with his big, new department store and relentless self-promotion. All of this is set before WWI but during a time when class struggles are on the horizon and gender roles are starting to change.
I could say it is lines like these exchanged between two women employed by Harry Selfridge’s department store that draw me into the series: “That’s why I joined the Suffragettes. It seems to me, it’s really about justice. It’s also about women being there for one another. That way, one doesn’t have to face whatever the future holds entirely on one’s own.”
But, it is more than that.
I love the complexity and messiness of the characters and the situations they put themselves in or find thrust upon them. While I watch Downton Abbey and enjoy the frothy fantasy of it all (more at the beginning of the series than now), I think the grittiness and emotional juxtapositions the series constructs (less melodramatic than the more popular series) give me more to think about over time.
No need to choose. You can have both series…