Darren told me the other day that he heard or read on the news that TV viewing is way up now, which seems like kind of a "duh" item to me. We just survived the blizzard of 2011 this week, and yes, what helps us through the long, dark, cold evenings when we have no desire to go out is TV. Not just any TV though, because neither one of us can deal with sitcoms or reality shows and have only limited tolerance for the endless crime/police/forensics shows on. We are story junkies. Give us a good story, and we'll watch for hours.
I've long been a proponent for Masterpiece Theatre, since that's what my parents watched when I was little. MT is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, so, in the interest of that, and if you're looking for something to get hooked on and while away a winter evening, I thought I'd post some of my favorites over the years.
One caveat: Masterpiece Theatre has always been an adult show, and it's coming from the UK where they don't have the FCC guidelines we do here. I've noticed any number of complaints from amazon reviewers about how they couldn't show some of these to their kids or grandkids or whatever. For years, MT didn't even start until 9 p.m. I wasn't ever allowed to watch the show with my parents until I got to fifth grade because a) it was past my bedtime and b) most of the programs were too mature for children. The reason I got to watch in fifth grade was because that was the first time the BBC did Pride & Prejudice. I'm really picky about what my kids watch, and I'm picky about what I watch as well.
So, with each show, I'll try to give some sort of rating as well, and we'll all leave things up to the dictates of our own conscience. Here we go!
Downton Abbey just finished this past Sunday, but all the eps are available on the Masterpiece Theatre site to view until February 22nd. I absolutely loved this, and apparently it had a record 11.8 million viewers in the UK, so it's already in production for both a second season and a Christmas special. Watch out, it's addictive. I would say that young teens and up could watch this. There are two brief scenes I wouldn't want my little kids to see, and other than that I think they'd be kind of bored.
This is my favorite piece of television of all time. All TIME. It is completely family-friendly and suitable for anyone, but I think it will be a couple of years before my kids will be interested in this one. It's everything rolled into one: fantastic storylines (multiple), drama, hilarity, valor, it's got it all. Get the Kleenex before you watch.
This series is based on the books by John Galsworthy. Darren and I spent one winter a couple years ago glued to this every night. I think Irene is miscast, but other than that, it's wonderful. Part II is below. I would probably rate this PG-13.
This is another family-friendly one, based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. I watched this a number of times with my mom, and we loved it.
I know it's cliche to love this, but really. It's the definitive version. My girls adore this and actually bring it along on long car trips to watch. You've probably seen it, but if you haven't, you've got to.
There have been so many movie versions of Jane Eyre (and I've seen them all), but in my opinion, this is by far, by FAR, the best. Ruth Wilson is a wonderful Jane, and Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith) is the perfect Mr. Rochester. I'd rate this PG.
This is a classic. I thought the first episode or two were a little slow, but after that I was hooked in for the remainder of the 15 hours. If you are at all interested in British-Indian history, this is the series for you...but honestly, it's a fascinating story even if you're not. I think I would rate it PG-13, due to violence and some mature themes.
Darren and I just watched the House of Cards trilogy last fall. It's an inside look at a dastardly British prime minister in the 1980s. Mesmerizing, but I would say adults only for this one.
"The Last Enemy" is a look at future, but not too distant future, Britain--when all citizens must have an identity chip and there are surveillance cameras wherever you go. This is a good thriller, and I'd rate it PG (I think? Hopefully there's not some scene I'm forgetting. Maybe...PG-12 just to be safe.) I bet some junior high or high school kid will have to do a paper on government involvement or Big Brother or something, and this would be some good (and fun) research material for them.
This is one of my favorite minis of all time. It's the story of two seemingly unrelated murders, corruption in Whitehall, and journalistic integrity. It's interesting to see how much the newspaper business has changed just since 2002-2003 when this was made, but the story still stands up. It's one of those when you plan to just watch one episode from 9 to 10, then you find yourself still watching at 2 a.m. It's the mini-series that the American/Russell Crowe movie from a few years ago was based on, and I don't know how they could have crammed these six hours into two, so I never bothered to watch that. Bill Nighy won a BAFTA for this, and his performance alone is worth watching, but everyone is great. I would say, kind of unfortunately, this one's for adults only.
Lastly, these are series that are in my personal queue to see. I hear this is the definitive version:
And this is a story of the pre-WWI years as told through the eyes of Johnny, the son of Queen Mary and George V, who was kept hidden away because of his epilepsy seizures and other idiosyncratic behavior.
I've actually got more if you're still reading this and have already seen all these, but I figure this should be enough for now. What are some of your favorites?