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Hi, I'm Jenna and I'm addicted to great television. I'm on a mission to share with you what I think are the best of the best when it comes to shows and mini-series. Long format visual storytelling is my entertainment of choice. I've got a lot to say, so stay tuned..... P.S. I am under some sort of invisible legal obligation to state that I do not own any of the photos posted herein unless otherwise specified and if you see any of your images and would like me to credit you or take it down (‘cus you’re just a meanie), please contact me

Sunday, February 27, 2011

MASTERPIECE Theater is Actually Cool!

Growing up, the only time I ever heard about Masterpiece Theater was in comedy sketches poking fun at some British, boring movie….or something. Well now I’m all grown up and I watch PBS because I want to. A little background, shall we?......The Masterpiece Trust was founded back in 1971, partners with UK producers to bring high quality material to America’s PBS. It started out with the classics (Austen, Dickens, the Bronte sisters). In 1980, they added Masterpiece Mystery! (Sherlock Holmes anyone?) Now, they’ve also got Masterpiece Contemporary. It's shown in three “seasons” on PBS (Sunday nights). Four months of each. Here some awesome suggestions that I’ve recently seen.

Based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries, creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss add a modern day twist. To be honest, I was skeptical, but within five minutes Benedict Cumberbatch had me enthralled. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the legendary private dick was BAH-RILLIANT! To put it more accurately, he is a consulting detective with the help of physician friend John Watson (played by the adorable Martin Freeman). The two actors have such amazing chemistry. Not only do the performances draw you in, but the style as well. They express the technology being used on screen (i.e. we see floating text of a text message that is being read). Important information, kids! Sounds kind of corny, but it worked marvelously. London is a major character. The way the city was shot with this dark and twinkling softness is like nothing I’ve ever seen. There are three 90 minute episodes and series two has been given the green light. Can’t wait for the return! Check out series one on Netflix.

Downton Abbey
Although, the material seems as though it’s based on a classic novel, this early 20th century period piece is original programming (as of 2010). Julian Fellowes created this a series around a British, Aristocratic estate. Not only does he delve into the secrets and naughty behavior of the family living there, but the servants who work in the house within a house. Hugh Bonneville plays the patriarch, Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley. Years ago he married an American heiress so that he could keep his title and estate. Said heiress is none other than Elizabeth McGovern (you know, from all those ‘80s movies). They have three very different daughters and a slew of hired helpers. Unfortunately they don’t have a son which causes much commotion over who will inherit the estate and title when the Earl kicks the bucket. British law was still very sexist back then, as well as the men.  On the surface, it seems like this could be quite a boring tale. I assure you that it’s not. You’ve got intrigue, murder, blackmail, romance and women trying to trick men into marrying them. What more could you want in 1914 rural England? Series two begins filming this fall! Do yourself a favor and Netflix it these four 90 minute episodes.  

Kenneth Branagh *swoon* plays Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander. The series is based on books by Henning Mankell. Although this is a crime series, I hesitate to call it a cop show. It’s so much more. The writing (credit to Mankell and co-screenwriter Richard Cottan.) is PHENOMENAL! It’s not our dumbed down, digestible bites of American rubbish. These are stories that make you think…. about life, about humanity, about society. Branagh’s quiet, yet intense performance has earned him nominations for an Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA (which he won). If you’re not hooked by the first scene of the first installment, you might as well pack up and go home. Wallander faces astonishing, horrific crime on a daily basis while trying to hold himself together. His family falls apart around him and relationships with co-workers are strenuous at best. All this adds up to a captivating character investigating the most intriguing cases in Southern Sweden (there’s actually a lot of them apparently). The crimes may be ugly, but the cinematography is breathtaking. Plus, I think the director really likes agricultural. Check out series one and two on Netflix. Only three 90 minute episodes per series. It’s worth it! More to come, including original stories….so stay tuned.

This morning I started watching Any Human Heart starring Jim Broadbent and Matthew MacFadyen. It chronicles one man's life through the better part of the 20th century. So far, so good, but I'll let you know how it turns out. 

So what have I learned? Masterpiece does NOT equal boring, rather incredibly great programming. When they say high quality, damn if they don’t mean it. Decide for yourself.

Do you have any favorite Masterpieces?

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