Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Addicted to Brit TV

ROSEMARY HARRIS: More years ago than I care to remember, I was addicted to a PBS program called The Forsyte Saga.

It was the Downton Abbey of its time.Based on a series of books by John Galsworthy people watched the ups and downs of the Forsytes, mostly Soames and Irene (pronounced for some weird reason
I-ree-neee) Forsyte, with the same obsessive dedication that some of us now follow Lady Mary and the guy who died.

I must have gotten the dvd set as a present - easily 2-3 years ago - and never got around to watching it. It might seem crazy to bring dvds on vacation, but my DH read at least 8-9 books on Florence and the Medicis before our trip and I knew that we would be visiting every piazza where Cosimo and Lorenzo ever had a gelato. And we did. Somedays 9-10 hours of walking.

I was also writing - working on the WIP, a short story and a garden club presentation. By the time 7pm rolled around I wanted to veg. (Until dinner that is.) What better way than to watch a little video?
Yes, I might have brought The Borgias or Roman Holiday (for Italian floavor...) but I had the set of TFS and stuck it in my carry-on at the last minute.

Yippee. Once I got over the cardboard-y sets (it was, after all, made decades ago)I was totally hooked! I even watched the extras, which were hysterical, as BBC announcers polled people on the street as to whether they were pro-Soames or pro-Irene. Surprisingly, I was more sympathetic to Soames this time than I was 30 years ago. I enjoyed it so much I may even give the remake (with Damian Lewis of Homeland) a shot.
Anyone else remember Soames and Ireneeeee? Young Jolyon? Philip Bossiney?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I never watched it! But now, I will. (A good series never dies..I bet it would be fun to watch LA Law again.) Although--when they recently re-did Upstairs,Downstairs, it was not so successful.. (And tell us about Florence! I LOVED it, and got hooked on food and leather and coffee and history and art. It was crazy crowded with tourists...but no one cared. Is that where the Enoteca Pinnchiori is? Do you know it?)

RO: Do not know the Enoteca, but climbed cupola at Duomo, stayed at Villa san Michele in Fiesole, visited Bargello, private tour of Vasari Corridor at Uffizi, Botanic garden, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and so much more. I resisted the lure of leather but treated myself to a small espresso maker and another gorgeous Aurora pen.

HALLIE EPHRON: I didn't get hooked on Forsyte Saga, but I did watch Upstairs Downstairs and, speaking of Italy, I Claudius. Call the Midwife didn't entrance me, but I confess to never missing Doc Martin.
What would I do without Public TV? LOVED the opening episode of Scott & Bailey. If you missed it, find it! I'm hooked.

RO: I've watched I Claudius so many times I could probably nail all the speaking parts. Love it! May be time to watch again..

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, Ro, I watched it! Loved it! Read all nine Galsworthy novels, such was the state of my devotion! (Not sure I could do that again...) I haven't been tempted to watch the remake. I don't think it was very well reviewed, and I didn't want anything to spoil the first one for me. The remake of Upstairs, Downstairs was sacrilege enough--next thing they'll be re-doing Brideshead!
Hallie, Scott and Bailey is fabulous!!! My fave on public TV at the moment. Also really like a little comedy called "rev." about an East London vicar.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: See, I thought the Victorian-era pronunciation of Irene WAS eye-REE-nee, because it's derived from the Greek. I'm dead certain I've heard Irene Adler's name pronounced that way, and that's always how I say it in my head.
Which is neither here nor there, since I didn't see the Forsythe Saga. For me, it was POLDARK. Oh, how my young self swooned over Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark. (I married a man named Ross. Coincidence? I think not.) The wicked Warleggens! Ross's nasty uncle! And his passionate relationship with Demelza, unhappily married to his loutish cousin. To this day, my heart beats faster when I see a man dressed in 18th century waistcoat and breeches.

RO: Was so bummed when I learned that the adorable actress who played Demelza had passed away.

DEBS: Julia, did you see the post last year where I talked about Robin Ellis? Poldark! If you missed it, here's the link to his blog:
I love his cookbook and use it all the time. And he's as adorable as ever:-) 
 RO: So Red readers, are you addicted to classic Brit TV? Whichwere your faves?


  1. I was always a fan of "Masterpiece Theatre" and “Mystery!” --- so many good shows, but “Father Brown” was one of my favorites . . . “Agatha Christie’s Marple” and Jeremy Brett’s “Sherlock Holmes” were both must-see shows . . . “Doctor Who” was a science fiction treat . . . .

  2. Rosemary, it is funny you should mention the cheesy sets. I had a recent conversation with a Dr. Who addict, and I mentioned the few episodes I'd watched with Tom Baker. In one, there was a close-up of the panel board of a spaceship, and I swear, the "knobs" were a rolled-up ball of tinfoil and a plastic butter tub. Which I thought was great. Recycle!

    I saw the Damian Lewis version of The Forsythe Saga. I remember the build-up to the marital rape scene. Though it was brief and non-violent in the sense he didn't beat her up, the portrayal of violation was really powerful. I have admired that actress ever since.

    I love the spirit of Call The Midwife. Did anyone watch The Flame Trees of Thika long ago? One of my favorites.

  3. Downton Abbey, Doc Martin, Call the Midwife, Rosemary & Thyme--all favorites over the years.

    But my all-time favorite show from the UK is much more difficult to find: Kingdom. Starring Stephen Fry, it's the story of Peter Kingdom, a barrister in a small coastal town. He is the only sane member of his family, with the sole exception of his wonderful elderly aunt. His brother is a fellow barrister who apparently walks into the sea to avoid the repercussions of staggering gambling debts, leaving Peter to handle the business with his trusty assistant, a widow with a young son. Kingdom's wacky sister who has all sorts of issues shows up and adds to the fun. British series are usually six episodes, and there were only three years' worth, but I could watch this again and again, it's so good.

    I remember Flame Trees of Thika, Ramona. Didn't that star Hayley Mills?

  4. I have a huge addiction to Call the Midwife! Huge. Same with Bletchley Circle. And of course Downton Abbey. And Doc Martin. Sherlock, too... need more Cumberbatch. I always fall for the Asperger guys. Of course I do. And obviously I'm not the only one.

  5. And god help me I miss The Vicar of Dibley. Truer than life, that parish council.

  6. One of my favorites is one of the original PBS series, "The First Churchills" OMG the men were all gorgeous and so were the women! The acting was superb, all stage trained.
    I have also loved all the Brits on "Mystery".

  7. Well of course I watched The Forsyte Saga when it was new. It was the one that started it all. Dramatic mini series, I mean. And of course I loved Upstairs Downstairs.

    Funny, when I watched TFS again some years later, I was struck by how the servants weren't characters at all, just props.

    Yup, I read all the books, and still have them Actually, I preferred the third trilogy, about the Cherrells. More human.

  8. Love, love, love the Brit TV on PBS -- Inspector Morse and now Lewis. The Forsythes and I,Claudius. No one has mentioned "Yes, Minister." It's pretty much all I watch on TV -- PBS and Turner Classic Movies.

    But I almost never watch the real educational stuff! I live in fiction.

  9. MORSE!

    You know I love MORSE, Denise Ann.

    And the Bletchley Circle is terrific, highly recommended!

    Ramona, maybe they WANTED to use tinfoil and a butter tub. It's cool, right?

    Ro, how did you get the espresso maker home? and the Vasari Corridor, huh? Are you reading INFERNO?

  10. Oh, yes, Ro! The Forsyte Saga. I had loved the novels, so had to see the series when it came out originally. Recently, I turned my husband and youngest onto it during a holiday marathon of the DVD set. My youngest has since become such a Forsyte fan that he's set up a wiki of all things Forsyte. Last year for Christmas I asked for and got the DVD sets for Upstairs, Downstairs and Poldark. Am now turning husband on to Ross and Demelza.

    Youngest, in return, turned us on to The Vicar of Dibley through DVDs.

    And I really, really want The Pallisers for Christmas this year. I'm such a Trollope fan and loved the series when first broadcast.

    I don't watch TV anymore, but I go online for Downton the Monday after it airs and for Sherlock. As well as masterpiece Theatre, BBC Mystery! shows, such as the Poirots, both versions of Dorothy Sayers's books, Miss Marples, and so many others, are big hits here. And I, Claudius! Well, Ro and I could have a contest on the dialogue.

    When I did watch TV, PBS was about all I watched. Who remembers the fabulous Royal Shakespeare Company version of Nicholas Nickleby? That's out on DVD, too.

    Sometimes, I think I ought to take up TV-watching again when I hear about some of the great new shows out on cable and PBS--oooh! Game of Thrones!!--but I don't know where I'd find the time. My watching of these DVDs tends to be during vacations and holidays, or when up in the middle of the night too ill too sleep. We go months without ever turning the set on, just because there's no time for it. Then when I'm traveling and in hotels, if I turn on the TV, I quickly turn it off. The commercials and constant breaks and volume that shoots up drive me insane. Just not used to it anymore. So I guess I'll stick with my DVDs and be, as my youngest claims, "ignorant of pop culture."

  11. I haven't seen many of the classic Brit shows except the old Mystery lineups (yes, Hank, MORSE!)...I seem to be catching up now with the remakes, which gets me curious about the classics. My parents were addicted to Upstairs, Downstairs. A-ddic-ted. I used to think, Yuck, how boring, I'm never going to watch stuff like that. HAH!

    I love the Helen Mirren Mystery series, and how come I can't remember its name right now?

  12. Lisa, the Helen Mirren series was Prime Suspect. Good, but it got darker and darker. I'm loving Scott and Bailey, the new police drama, because of the relationships between the strong female characters. Linda Rodriquez, worth watching for you if/when it's out on DVD.

    And the biggie, coming I think in August, is and 8-part series called Broadchurch, starring David Tennant. If anyone has a multi-region DVD player (they are cheap and easily available) here's the link to the UK version:
    It's fabulous.

  13. PRIME SUSPECT was a wonderful series, but most of all I miss Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.

  14. Ooooo, Debs! David Tennant! I'll have to put my youngest on the lookout for Broadstreet. Used to have a multi-region DVD player (when youngest came back from a year in England with all sorts of lovely things we don't get here)--until a burglar stole it. Often wondered what he said when he tried to play US videos on it (in those days it wouldn't play US, only Brit and European).

    I'll keep my eye out for Scott and Bailey, as well. Thanks for the heads up!

  15. Doc Martin, New Tricks (not "classic" Brit TV, but a classic nonetheless), Rosemary & Thyme, Pie in the Sky, and, yes, Midsomer Murders (how can so many people want to live in these villages where 3 murders a week take place?!), Morse, Kingdom (it was on Hulu for the longest time)

    I could go on and on, but must go and find Hallie and Debs' find.

  16. So weird...I've commented here twice today and nada...let's see if this appears..

  17. Sure...the boring post shows up! Loved Flame Trees of Thika..Hayley Mills, Ben Cross (of Chariots of Fire) and David Robb aka Dr. Clarkson of Downton Abbey. He's aged well! Ramona, Gina McKee is the actress from Forsyte remake and she's heating things up on The Borgias. Not history as my husband would have it but - Go Cesare.

    Tried to watch The First Churchills again recently but it was rough going. Anyone remember Flambards? Horses and airplanes in early 20th century?

    The espresso maker was a tiny one that you use on the stove. vasari Corridor...need an appt for special collection in Uffizi. our cicerone took us there!

  18. Flambards was wonderful! Imagine a time when you just bought or built your airplane and flew it. No lessons, no licenses. Guess the same went for cars too. I, Claudius was fabulous. Of course we had the cleaned up American version on TV; years later I saw the "salacious" European version. I am a Doc Martin devotee; got my parents hooked on it; they're in their nineties. My husband buys the Midsomer Mysteries DVDs. I kid him that that county is THE place to live in England.I watch most of the mystery series that come one. And Doctor Who of course. They must have a budget now; no cheesy equipment. No plumbers friends for the Daleks. I loved Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, Faulty Towers, the Vicar of Dibley. Anyone remember The Irish R.M.? And one of my favorites was the series with Frances Urqhart, FU to his friends, and his evil wife. Are there any British series I don't like? As to that, I really couldn't say. RIP, FU

  19. @Linda -- does your local library have DVDs? Ours has many of the PBS series, and we are in a small town.

  20. Fawlty Towers. My husband and I quote lines back and forth to each other much to our daughter's embarrassment.

  21. I suppose everyone has become a Downton fan, my PBS station recently replayed all of seasons one and two on Sunday afternoons, so I somehow managed to get even more hooked on it. I love Cumberbatch's Sherlock and David Tennant as Doctor Who, now waiting for Broadchurch after reading Deb's post !! I also liked "All Creatures Great and Small" from several years ago.

  22. Most of the shows I enjoy/enjoyed are already mentioned, but haven't seen anyone mention the Brother Cadfael series. Absolutely wonderful!

  23. I disliked the nasty male in the Forsythe Saga so intensely that I cannot watch whatever the newish TV show is that he is in!
    Loved Poldark when it came out, but we watched it recently and found it had not aged well for us.

  24. I ADORE Gina McKee so may have to give the Forsyte remake a try, after all.

    For Dibley fans, do try Rev. Very funny, very sweet.

    Love Doc Martin and New Tricks.

    I never watched Flambards, so will have to look for it.

    For cop show fans, there's a great series you can get on DVD called MIT. It was an offshoot of The Bill in the UK, same writers, etc, but about a major incident unit and the two detectives were female. Haven't watched series two as one of the women left the show...

    Oh, and I must look for All Creatures on Netflix or DVD. I LOVED that series.

  25. I love British shows! Doc Martin (when is the new season out this year?), Downton Abbey, Bletchley Circle, Inspector Lewis, Agatha Christie. Masterpiece Theatre Mystery series always has great programs, and it is due to start here again the middle of June. Oh, I also enjoyed As Time Goes By (wasn't that the name of the one with Dame Judy Dench?) So many great shows from which to choose!

  26. Actually, on Poldark it was Elizabeth who had been Ross's fiancee then married his cousin instead. Ross pined for her for a long time, but he married Demelza, a lower class woman that he came to love.

  27. Ah, thank heaven, someone else has been perturbed by the pronunciations of "Irene"! I thought it was in "A Scandal in Bohemia" in which someone says something to the effect that "her name, Irene, is pronounced in the European fashion." And I have wondered ever since what that might be! I'll be trimming the grass or washing the dishes and find myself repeated "ih-REEN," "Ih-REE-nee," ih-ree-NEE." Come to think of it, it's no wonder people sometimes look at me rather oddly.

    So if that quote isn't from "Scandal," (and, if it is, I can't find it), I really do think it is from a related work. Laurie R. King? The Seven Percent Solution? Argh.

    I loved the "Mystery" adaptations of Campion, and especially adored the theme music for it. (And the theme for "I, Claudius!") But after "All Creatures Great and Small," I'm not sure I could dislike anything Peter Davison was in. And Clara and CD in "No Honestly."

  28. I also love Brit TV, but I tend to concentrate on the comedies more. So.... The Vicar of Dibley, Red Dwarf, Coupling (like Friends but much better!), The Thin Blue Line with Rowan Atkinson, Are You Being Served?, Fawlty Towers, As Time Goes By with Judi Dench, Butterflies, To The Manor Born, Keeping Up Appearances, 'Allo, 'Allo and the very best one Waiting for God. My husband and I don't have the same taste in TV or movie viewing but we always watch New Tricks, Prime Suspect and any and all Sherlock Holmes adaptations together.

  29. That's okay, Kristi, I have done the same thing with "Louisa" as Doc Martin pronounces it!

    My brother-in-law is Welsh and he tried to get me to watch Blackadder. It's beyond silly, but Hugh Laurie is great in that, too.

    The Flame Trees of Thika was a wonderful book, by the way. I read it before I saw any of the series.

  30. "Who remembers the fabulous Royal Shakespeare Company version of Nicholas Nickleby?"

    Linda, I loved Nicholas Nickleby!

    Despite all the great shows of the past, this is the first season I recall being so impressed with the number of these high quality shows. I had to adjust my routine to suit the TV schedule. I just have to. It's too rich for me to pass up. It feeds me.

  31. British TV is the best! All Creatures Great and Small. (I agree that Peter Davison is always terrific!) We got hooked on Masterpiece Theater because of "Love in a Cold Climate" (the original one with Judy Dench, then "A Testament of Youth", then "A Town Like Alice", "Disraeli" and I could go on and on. I've loved most Sherlocks, but Cumberbatch really has him nailed. As Time Goes By is the best British comedy ever!

  32. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, I watch more British TV than from the U.S. I am now watching "The Last Detective" with Peter Davision, who was the fifth Dr. Who but for me Tristan Farnon in "All Creatueres Great and Small," of which I was a devoted viewer many years ago. It is a great show! I love Rev. too - watched all on Hulu. "Spy" is another fun comedy on Hulu. For current times, "Lewis," "Vera," "Call the Midwife," and "Sherlock" never get missed! Even with the shorter series/seasons, the Brits know how to do character development better than anyone. For fun fare for the family, my kids and I were obsessed with "Primeval" and have every episode on DVD. They call me Mum now! Now if I can just get them to put "Miranda," the comedy staring Miranda Hart, Chummy from Call the Midwife, on somewhere I'll be a happy camper!

  33. Marianne in MaineMay 29, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Have you seen Acorn TV? For under $30 a year you can watch British shows on computer or tv device (I use Hulu.) They each run for a few weeks and new options come online every Sunday. We're going through all the Pie in the Sky shows now. It's Australian but the Phryne Fisher Mysteries are fun. Based on Kerrie Greenwood's books.

    I watched the original Upstairs Downstairs religiously. I really did cry when it ended. The first Forsythe Saga was fabulous! I didn't think the remake was too terrible. I did end up hating Captain Winters from Band of Brothers though (Damian Lewis.)

    And I was so in lust with Ross Poldark.

    We watch ALL the Brit series. Love Morse and Lewis and Midsommer and Foyle's War and Midwife. I can never see too much of The Vicar of Dibley. I was recovering from surgery a few years ago and rented the entire series. I couldn't laugh without pain and it was a challenge.

    BTW, there's a new Inspector Lewis series starting in June.

  34. I am totally addicted and what I didn't watch when it was out, I watch on Netflix - like Jan J.

    I did not know about Acorn TV, though Marianne, is that all current stuff? Or just oldies like Netflix?

  35. Loved "The Forsyte Saga" and "Poldark" and the "Irish R.M." Did anyone else see "Shoulder to Shoulder" or Dad's Army?

  36. Poldark YES. One of the best ever. In a fit of nostalgia, I recently did watch The First Churchills and liked it a lot. AND I am working my way through the original Forsytes from Netflix. Back in the day, I did not have a tv, and saw it later, bits and pieces. It's success was the reason Masterpiece Theatre was started.Pretty wonderful, once we get past the cheesy production. I put some of my other favorites on Facebook- Call the Midwife, Sherlock,Inspectors Lewis and Foyle, Flambards (based on excellent childrens books) As Time Goes By, Yes Minister,always and forever Upstairs Downstairs...and I am forgetting some. What was the hilarious one about mismatched neighbors?

  37. Marianne in MaineMay 29, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Jan, most of the shows are from a while ago. They just showed the most recent George Gently. I think they were recent.

    Currently they're showing Murder Investigation Team, The Far Pavilions, Agatha Christie's Marple, Kidnap & Ransom, DNA, Single-Handed, Falcon, Wired, Thomas & Sarah, Springhill, The Norman Conquests, Playing Shakespeare, Pie in the Sky, Honest, Dirty Tricks, Cloudstreet,
    Murdoch Mysteries, The Sinking of the Laconia, Shades, Midsomer Murders.

    Does anyone remember a series called Tanka (I think?) It was about women who were captured in Singapore and Indonesian and held captive by the Japanese in WWII. I watched it years ago and haven't seen it since.

  38. So many so much enjoyed - Prime Suspect; Hetty Wainthrop Investigats; As Time Goes By;
    Morse and Lewis at top;Dalziel & Pascoe;The Last Detective;James Herriot;Inspector Lynley.
    Of course, P&P on Masterpiece ('95) the blockbuster. I like Bletchley Circle tremendously & hope more to come.
    In Cornwall on one of day trips we're to see area where Poldark filmed and Port Isaac (Doc Martin) - should be fun.

  39. Marianne - I remember the series about women in Singapore held by the Japanese - it was excellent. Have only found one other of my acquaintance who watched it - many years back. The name escapes me, but you're close, I think.

  40. Marianne - just looked up the series about Japanese "detainees" - it was Tenko!

  41. How about "The Duchess of Duke Street"? No one mentioned that. It was one of my favorites along with almost all the others mentioned.

  42. Oh! Oh! Oh! I forgot Outnumbered! How could I forget Outnumbered? Steve and I sit here laughing the entire time it's on. First he reminds us of our kids. Then it reminds us of us, and we wonder how are parents ever did it. Oh wait... boarding school... summer camp... other people to take care of us... kicking us out... ahhhh. All makes sense now.

  43. Oooh, ooh, Duchess of Duke Street, Town Like Alice, Testament of Youth...loved them all. For comedies the Good Neighbors with that sweet actor Richard something who just died and the gal from Rosemary and Thyme
    Do we all know that Demelza (Angharad Rees) was married to Christopher Cazenove, the handsome guy in Duchess? Tragically they both died young.
    And don't forget Rumpole of the Bailey...She Who Must Be Obeyed!

  44. Duchess of Duke Street indeed! Who can forget the chamber pots being hurled over the fence at the snotty neighbors? Also there was a series with Bob Hoskins called Flickers, about the silent movie industry. That was fun. I never watched Poldark. Hearing the name reminds me of an interview years ago with Alistair Cooke, the original host of Masterpiece Theater. He was reminiscing and said of all the series shown there was only one he really hated: Poldark.

  45. Nobody mentioned The Jewel in the Crown. It was on Masterpiece Theatre for 13 weeks back in the 1980s. I was so addicted to it that I later read all four of the books it was based on.

    More recently I'v watched Doc Martin, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, D.C.I. Banks, and Bletchley Circle. It would be a very long post indeed to cover all the wonderful British programs I've seen and enjoyed over the years. Looking forward to the return of Foyle's War in September on our local PBS.

  46. Adored Jewel in the Crown! So many great story lines...of course had to read The Raj Quartet after that. AND terrific actors. The other doctor from Downton (Tim Piggott-Smith), Soames from TFS, Geraldine James from the new Sherlock movies and the wonderful old dames. No one's mentioned Brideshead or The Golden Bowl, which creaks but is still better than the (shudder!)Nick Nolte film.

  47. I still have my copy of The Raj Quartet--all 598 pages of it! Yes, the acting was fantastic! Paul Scott wrote another book called Staying On, which mentions some of the characters of TRQ, including what became of Sarah Layton and Guy Perron. Staying On won the Booker prize in I think 1977. Later it was made into a TV movie with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, but it wasn't as memorable as TRQ.

  48. Caught part of a Brit show on Animal Planet once upon a time and never got to see the end of it...Vet. It co-stared the sidekick to Jane Tennison, Richard some-thing... Anyone know how it ended? Too obscure for Netflixs or even Amazon UK, I think. How about Doctor in the House? Flambards was a favorite as well as Poldark and A Town Like Alice. Young Bryan Brown! Deborah Crombie, perhaps your great books could get the Masterpiece treatment like Inspector Lynley?

  49. Inspector Lynley started out good, although the on-screen version of Barbara Havers took some getting used to. Then the series deteriorated as time went by. If they make a Masterpiece series out of Deborah Crombie's books and put in too many changes, I'm going to have a hissy fit! I love her books!