Archive for the ‘Brit TV Hits’ Category

North and South (2004)   Leave a comment

This beautifully adapted drama was first aired in Britain in 2004. Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and Richard Armitage as John Thornton, the four-part series based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel was an instant hit with audiences, surprising the BBC who were convinced it wouldn’t do well in the ratings.

However, we costume drama fangirls know better. Put a good-looking actor like Richard Armitage in a sexy waistcoat and shirt, and we will watch anything, regardless of what it is. Fortunately, though, the show had more than just totty watch going for it.

Set during the height of the Industrial Revolution, North and South tells the story of proud and genteel Margaret Hale, a girl from the south, who is forced to move with her family to the grimy mill town of Darkshire (a ficticious Manchester) when her father suddenly decides to leave the clergy.

Darkshire is Margaret’s worst nightmare come true. The streets are filthy and full of smoke, thanks to the surrounding mills that run night and day, the weather is inhospitable, and worse of all, the people are coarse and ill-mannered. Particularly one John Thornton, whom Margaret takes an instant dislike to, even though he is one of the wealthiest men in town.

Thornton’s wealth is self-made, though, and the harsh experiences of his younger years have left him with a chip on his shoulder. Despite his gruff manners and no-nonsense talk, he proves himself to be honest, hard-working and intelligent.

But Margaret refuses to see his good side and rejects him when he proposes to her, believing him to be haughty and snobbish-as some in the town think she is.

Through a series of crises, in which Thornton-without any fanfare- stands by Margaret and helps her when he can, she comes to realise that perhaps he is a decent sort after all, and is just the kind of man she would like to spend the rest of her life with. Aww.

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Horatio Hornblower (1998-2003)   Leave a comment

Ok, I know I said in my About page how this blog wasn’t going to be all about me ogling totty British actors, but the thing is, dear reader….I lied.

No, seriously. Doing the post about Jamie Bamber the other day got me thinking about what an amazing series Hornblower was, and how I wish they had made more of them.

Although he had had small roles in other films, being cast as Horatio Hornblower was a godsend for the then 23 year old Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffudd. He was perfect in the role as a socially awkward but honourable young man who joins the British Navy as a 17 year old midshipman, and steadily rises up the ranks.

Beginning with ‘The Even Chance’ in 1998, the series ran as 8 separate tv movies until the final episode ‘Duty’ aired in 2003. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t the BBC who commisioned the series to be made, but an American production company, A&E. 

As well as the exotic locations, rollicking good story lines and lavish costumes, Hornblower featured a stellar cast of veteran and up and coming actors. Alongside Ioan and Jamie, of course, there was Robert Lindsey, Paul McGann, Anthony Sher, Dennis Lawson, Samuel West and David Warner to name a few.

There has really been nothing else of this calibre on tv before or since, so this is my little tribute to great television-making and the people who made it happen.

PS. For any of you die-hard Ioan fans out there, does that picture of Ioan holding a gun immediately make you start singing:”I’m quick on the trigger..”?

PPS. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, see the video below. You’ll be glad you did!

Pride & Prejudice (1995)   1 comment

Oh, that immortal wet shirt!

Among the many things the Brits are good at, the one I am most grateful to them for is their ability to consistently make quality film and television- particularly costume dramas.

Although there had been a good number of successful film and tv adaptations of classic books before the BBC decided to tackle Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, somehow they all paled into insignificance next to this series which has become the benchmark for all successive adaptations to compare themselves to.

It not only launched Colin Firth’s career as a reluctant pin-up and movie star, but also made Andrew Davies one of the most sought-after script writers in Britain. Add to these elements the talented Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett, a little unspoken sexual tension between the two leads to keep the audience happy and high-quality film which gave the production a cinematic quality and you had one of the most-watched period dramas of all time.

Most lovers of classic adaptations would consider it to be among their favourites, and for a series that was made more than a decade ago, it has held up remarkably well on subsequent viewings.

For those of you who appreciate well-scripted shows with well-rounded characters in beautiful surroundings, I highly recommend this version of P&P!

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