Thinking Inside the Box | Column | 7/26/2013
July 29, 2013
British Drama on This Side of the Pond Hi, Ellis Bromberg with more "Thinking Inside the Box" on mptv.org and mptv.org.mobile. One of the big stories this summer has been the birth of baby George to William and Kate, the duke and duchess of Cambridge. We know a little bit about famous English families at Milwaukee Public Television because ever since the BBC series, THE FORSYTE SAGA, premiered on PBS in 1969, our viewers have loved stories about those families. THE FORSYTE SAGA was a 26-part serial, based on novels by English author John Galsworthy, that chronicled the lives of an upper class British family. It was the last major British drama series produced in black and white, and it was excellent. And Americans loved it so much that public TV began exploring whether other British series would be available for broadcast in America. The result was MASTERPIECE THEATRE, which premiered on Channel 10 in January 1971 with a BBC series about another famous English family, THE FIRST CHURCHILLS. Through the years, our viewers have certainly enjoyed series about the British aristocracy, but we've also had a keen interest in the stories of those who have served them, particularly when the storylines have been intertwined, most notably on two of the most popular dramas ever to air on public television, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS and the wildly successful DOWNTON ABBEY. The series MYSTERY! premiered in February 1980 with an old-fashioned thriller, SHE FELL AMONG THIEVES, and MYSTERY! became known over the years for such popular mini-series as RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES with Jeremy Brett, INSPECTOR MORSE, PRIME SUSPECT, and many, many more. British drama has remained a hallmark of public television for decades, but we've noticed a big resurgence in its popularity over the past few years. DOWNTON ABBEY, of course, is a huge hit. Last winter, each episode was seen by almost 8 million American viewers. But it's not just that one series. A few weeks ago, in only its second episode, the new MASTERPIECE MYSTERY series ENDEAVOR, starring Shaun Evans as the young Inspector Morse, was the highest-rated program in its timeslot in southeastern Wisconsin, with a larger viewership than every other program on commercial and cable television. So if it's been awhile since you've curled up on the couch for a good British drama or mystery, I invite you to join us and all the other viewers who are enjoying themselves on Channels 10&36 -- almost every night of the week! On Mondays we have CALL THE MIDWIFE; on Tuesdays AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT; on Thursdays join us for INSPECTOR GEORGE GENTLY; Fridays it's DEATH IN PARADISE; Saturdays, MISS FISHER'S MURDER MYSTERIES; and then on Sundays this summer, we have THE LADY VANISHES, SILK, and the much anticipated return of FOYLE'S WAR. That'll get you in the mood for an extraordinary fall and winter: with a Daphne DuMaurier story THE SCAPEGOAT; the marvelous new series LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX starring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid; a second season of MR. SELFRIDGE; a re-broadcast of the third season of DOWNTON ABBEY, and yes, the fourth season of DOWNTON, which premieres January 5th on Channel 10. We know there's always plenty of drama and suspense surrounding the British royal family -- but the best British TV mysteries and dramas are right here on Milwaukee Public Television. Please join us -- and I'll be back soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."