Monday, 3 February 2014

Mr Selfridge, series 2 ITV

Mr Selfridge, series 2, episode 1, review
Mr Selfridge works more effectively when it doesn't take itself seriously, says Gabriel Tate

Remember Harry Selfridge? The man who opened his shop in 1909 with brio and bonhomie, flinging his arms wide (was Harry an early proponent of ‘hugging it out’?) and flashing those pearly whites? Well, things were a little different by 1914, as we rejoined Jeremy Piven's entrepreneur following a first series of multiplying business worries and self-inflicted marital trauma. At the start of this second series, he had become a brooding, bespectacled introvert, fielding press queries with a frown. These were, he intoned, "uncertain times". But you can’t keep a good grin down: it was the fifth anniversary of the central London department store, which meant throwing a party.
Having said that, Piven did seem to be reining in the razzle-dazzle a little. It was as if someone had actually reminded him that actors require a little directing to produce their best work, and need not try to outperform the spectacular production design. The result was less exhausting and more engaging, even if he still struggled with portraying the heavier end of the emotional range. It wasn’t such a problem with this opener, with Harry’s personal life in the ascendant as his estranged wife Rose returned and his young son pitched into the family business. And the supporting cast was more than capable of picking up the slack: it was a genuine thrill to see stalwarts of the stage such as Samuel West and Tom Goodman-Hill slumming it with such relish. Of the new additions, Aidan McCardle’s unambiguously villainous Lord Loxley and Polly Walker, playing ‘decadent’ nightclub owner and proto-feminist Delphine Day, made a real impression amid the whirl of characters and stories.
Elsewhere, sexual tension abounded – Harry and Mae, Agnes and Victor, Mrs Mardle and Mr Grove. While you couldn’t call all of it unconsummated after the bedhopping of the previous series, you could certainly deem it unresolved. And that’s before the late return of Spiral’s Gregory Fitoussi as Henri Leclair, even dishier now he’s dishevelled and, as seems likely, the proud bearer of "a past".
Mr Selfridge isn’t the sort of production to risk letting its viewers miss the point. Equally, it’s a drama that’s more comfortable the less seriously it takes itself. So it’s unfortunate that last night’s parting shot, in attempting to address one the grimmest narratives of the 20th century, instead provoked giggles with its ostentatious mise en scène: a newspaper strewn in the gutter, headline blaring "Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated" mere seconds after a vendor has been heard shouting the same sentence not once, but twice. Like Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge’s welcoming arms may do well to embrace the escapism and keep real human tragedy at a safe distance.

Series 2 (2014)

series   Title     Directed by     Written by      Original air date         Viewers (in millions)
UK viewers by BARB; figures include ITV HD and ITV +1 broadcasts

1          "Episode 1"     Anthony Byrne          Andrew Davies and Kate Brooke     19 January 2014         6.76
In 1914 the store is celebrating five years, Harry and wife Rose have become increasingly estranged,and he is thrilled when she returns to celebrate the fifth anniversary. There's still a rift between them exacerbated by the influence of novelist Delphine Day and their 15 year old son, Gordon, who wants to leave school and work in the store. Agnes Towler returns from Paris as head of departmental displays. Lady Mae's husband unexpectedly arrives in London and she hears him blackmail his way onto a government military committee amid rumours of impending war.

2          "Episode 2"     Anthony Byrne          Kate O'Riordan          26 January 2014         5.03 (Overnight)
The staff are worried Selfridge will return to America if war breaks out and to reassure them he organizes an Empire Exhibition in the Palm Court restaurant and a staff party. Trade unionists stir up the warehouse workers to demand more rights and Selfridge's son joins the meeting. The staff party is held, to Selfridge's apprehension, at Delphine's club at his wife's request. hoping it will reconcile them. Lord Loxley thwarts Lady Mae's plans to escape to their country house without him by renting it out and then invites himself to the party to meet Selfridge and Delphine lets it slip that Rose has met Henri Leclair.

3          "Episode 3"     Rob Evans      Kate Brooke   2 February 2014        
Agnes struggles to get the empire exhibition ready, undermined by Mr Thackery and the rival departments needs, and Selfridge offers Henri Leclair, to her delight and Victor Colleano's displeasure, a job to assist her. Lord Loxley pays Selfridge a visit to tell him he can get Winston Churchill to open the event in return for information on leather suppliers, while Lady Mae discovers her husband is bankrupt, information she conceals from Selfridge. Mr Grove handed his final warning when late for work again pulls himself together and discovers 80% of the male staff are eligible for the army. Rose finds her son's, Gordon, collection of racy photos and they have a heart to heart over the relationship of his parents. War is declared between Britain and Germany.

4          "Episode 4"     Rob Evans      Dan Sefton     9 February 2014        
With news of the first horrors of war in Belgium, the men of Selfridges clamour to sign up, while Rose, Delphine and Lady Mae organise a special chocolate sale to aid refugees - which goes down a treat in the store and proves inspirational for Miss Mardle. Thackeray suspects Henri is up to no good, Victor faces a family crisis and Loxley gets his shady money-making plans off the ground.

5          "Episode 5"                            16 February 2014      
6          "Episode 6"                            23 February 2014      
7          "Episode 7"                            2 March 2014
8          "Episode 8"                            9 March 2014
9          "Episode 9"                            16 March 2014          
10        "Episode 10"                          23 March 2014           

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