Fancy Chat


Christmas Review #2 of 12

Okay, so, Cranford was done and dusted well in advance of “Christmas” but this forms a part of my dozen, festive reviews by virtue of the fact that it seemed to set the tone for the subsequent Dickensian offerings from BBC and ITV.  Alternatively, it’s my blog and I make the rules.  Cranford was, on the surface, one of those cosy Sunday night offerings that are served up from time to time as a “feel good” period drama.  This one ran over five consecutive Sundays in November and December but, far from the cosiness that may have been expected, Cranford proved to be an exceptionally dangerous place to dwell as death stalked the residents with regular abandon.  Characters were introduced like Michael Gambon’s Mr Holbrook, only for him to die minutes later and leave another broken heart in the town.  However, the show was very hard to pigeon-hole given the exceptionally varied cast of characters and the multitudinous storylines.

At its heart it seemed to a drama about gossiping and could be seen, if you squinted hard enough, as a parable about celebrity culture with a plethora of rather innocuous incidents that the resident ladies were all too willing to get flustered over and run around willy-nilly telling anyone they could find their own interpretation of events.  I am only thankful that they didn’t have text messaging in the 1840’s.  I have never read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels upon which the series was based so I cannot say whether this was the thrust of the original material or not.  However, the main story involved the arrival of the young Doctor Harrison (*swoon*) and how the inhabitants reacted to, befriended, celebrated and ultimately, misunderstood him.  Outside of this, there were numerous side stories that variously and randomly lurched from the sublime (banks in crisis, and the state of the education system) to the ridiculous (cats swallowing expensive lace, and cows in pyjamas).

While all this may seem like a bit of mish-mash of ideas, the whole story was held together by great acting performances throughout from the likes of Francesca Annis and Julia MacKenzie who I haven’t seen in anything for years, to Philip Glenister and Judi Dench who seem to be everywhere at once.  Also, worthy of note was Kimberley Nixon who played Sophy in what I think might be her screen debut who was eminently engaging throughout.  As ever the Beeb pulled out all the stops for its period drama and the production values were suitably high.  It also performed pretty well in the ratings and more than held its own against “I’m a Celeb…” for which we can all be thankful.  The only question left is whether we’ll revisit Cranford for a second outing, even though the source material has been all but used up for these five episodes.

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