Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jeremy Piven Has A New Entourage

Mr. Selfridge
Masterpiece Classic
With Jeremy Piven,  Frances O'Conner,
Katherine Kelly, Zoe Tapper
Sunday Nights 9 PM
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

It's hard to believe, but once upon a time, going to a department store was not quite the experience it is today.

Think about how sensual of an experience going to a Nordstroms or a Macys is.

At many Nordstroms you are greeted by live classical or jazz piano music as the fragrance of perfume gently waffs through the air.

You can try on the latest fashions and shoes to your hearts content or try on the various colognes, perfumes or after shaves.  Frequently there are special guests/famous people there to meet and get autographs.

In the early 1900's this was not the case.  This idea of the "Shopping Experience" had to start somewhere and many believe it started with a young man from Chicago by the name of Harry Gordon Selfridge who started his Department Store Selfridge & Co. in London.

It was Selfridge who is credited with such phrases as "_____ Shopping Days Until Christmas" and revolutionary ideas like, gasp,  actually putting all the merchandise out for customers to sample.

Now his life and times are chronicled and perhaps a bit embellished in a new series entitled Mr. Selfridge which is under the umbrella of the English juggernaut known as Masterpiece Theater and can be seen here in the states on PBS on Sunday nights.

Fresh off their major success of Downton Abbey, the network seems to have another hit period television drama series on their hands.

The title character is played wonderfully by Jeremy Piven (best known for his work in HBO's The Entourage) to which I say hooray.  I was getting tired of all these actors from across the pond like Hugh Laurie and Simon Baker coming over to America and taking roles in American TV Series.

But unlike Laurie and Baker who play Americans in their shows, Piven plays an American in London with the perfect mix of naivity, sense of wonder, and driven passion.

The show is well cast with a great team featuring Frances O'Connor in the role of Rose Selfridge, Former Coronation Street actress Katherine Kelly as Lady Mae Loxley, Grégory Fitoussi (Henri Leclair), Aisling Loftus (Agnes Towler), Zoe Tapper (Ellen Love) and Trystan Gravelle (Victor Colleano).

Talk about a fish out of water for Harry Selfridge.  His experience of changing the shopping culture in stodgy old England with their unwritten rules was a bit like what I learned about the Revolutionary
War where the colonists hid in trees and behind rocks with their muskets while the British marched in formation with their beautiful uniforms.  We all know how that worked out.

But the story of Harry Selfridge is also inspiring.  It reminds us of how success happens.  It's often a leap of faith.  When a major investor pulls his support in the opening episode, it would have been easy to just give up but Selfridge pushed on and the rest is history.

This television show is actually a treatment of Lindy Woodhead's biography "Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge" and brings the book to life beautifully.

The thing that really amazes me about these productions are the attention to detail of the time period.  Part of the reason why I love this show is the same reason I like shows like Madmen which re-create time periods with uncanny accuracy and transports us to another place and time as if we were in a time machine.

A set to the north of London was built to house a replica of the 1909 Selfridge's store interior. The exterior of the store was recreated in The Historic Dockyard Chatham, in Kent. The disused Aldwych tube station was used to film Rose Selfridge travelling on the London Underground and scenes in the first episode featuring Victor Colleano, Agnes Towler and her brother George.

This show should at least win Emmys in the categories of costuming and set design.

Mr. Selfridge is a wonderful mix of soap opera, history, and inspirational story which will make it a joy to watch over the next few months.

No comments: