Masterpiece Classic

"Downton Abbey" keeps surprising us ... and its actors

 "Downton Abbey" returns Sunday, in an episode that's big, ambitious and (as usual) well-crafted. There are surprises ahead ... which, actually, shouldn't surprise us. From the beginning, "Downton" has sometimes managed to startle its viewers and its cast. Here's the story I sent to papers: 


Shopping and history link masterfully

After a zillion or so March pledge breaks, PBS is suddenly on top of its game. On Friday (see previous blog), it has a superb profile of Philip Roth. On Sunday, it follows the "Call the Midwife" season-opener with a large and lush "Masterpiece Classic" miniseries, "Mr. Selfridge." Here's the "Selfridge" story I sent to papers:


“Masterpiece” has lingered in
life's finest settings.

"Downton" is back; alert your VCR

"Downton" Abbey returns Sunday, as elegantly tangled as ever. Here's the story I sent to papers:


For the once-cozy folks in “Downton
Abbey,” life is almost normal again.

The war is ending, a marriage is
beginning. “This season, in a way, is about the recovery from the
war,” said Julian Fellowes, the “Downton” creator.

"Masterpiece" is back, amid high expectations

It's always good news when "Masterpiece" returns, with its richly crafted dramas. Now -- after another long pledge-drive pause -- three minisries will air on Sundays, starting with "Great Expectations" and Gillian Anderson's wondrfully offbeat performance. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Sprawling from the marshes of Kent to
the ballrooms of London, Charles Dickens'“Great Expectations” is
a key part of some British educations.

It's know-your-Downton time

As the "Downton Abbey" sequel nears (see previous story), you're forgiven for not remembering who's who and who does what.

No problem; here's a handy guide I sent to papers:


Life can get tangled inside a grand
estate in 1916 England. As the second round of PBS' “Downton Abbey”
begins, here's a guide to the characters:

The Crawleys

Keeley Hawes: One of the best; not one of the best-known

Not all gifted actresses, it seems, get equal amounts of attention. I'm quite sure I've seen more about Sandra Bullock and Anjelina Jolie than I have about Keeley Hawes.

Still, let's be clear about this: Hawes -- who stars in the "Upstairs Downstairs" PBS miniseries that begins Sunday (April 10) -- is one of the best actresses around. Here's a story I sent to papers:


PBS has an endless appetite for people
who play upper-class English folks.