Monday, April 28, 2014

The Paradise (TV Series, Season One)

I'd heard about The Paradise (TV series) from other bloggers such as Miss Elizabeth Bennet at Elegance Of Fashion and was interested so when I saw it had been recently added to Netflix I immediately started watching Season One completely enjoyed it! When I'd finished the first season I watched it over again!
There are many connections to Lark Rise To Candleford (TV Series) so if you love that you'll probably like this series too! 

Story: When young Denise Lovett comes from Scotland to stay with her dressmaker uncle he cannot afford to employ her so she seeks work across the street at one of England's first department stores The Paradise. Entering the glittering world of The Paradise is daunting at first but soon Denise's imagination starts to soar with merchandising ideas that make her manager Miss Audrey jealous and the stores owner Mr. Moray sit up and take notice. Mr. Moray has troubles of his own which include financing his ever growing store, romancing a wealthy socialite and battling rumors of how his first wife died.

Music: The very catchy theme song as well as the rest of the lovely music was composed by Maurizio Malagnini. All music fits the scenes perfectly and is delightfully appropriate for the period.

Costumes: The costumes in this miniseries are absolutely gorgeous! The dresses particularly worn by Katherine Glendenning are quite extravagant, colorful and stylish. As business people each character at The Paradise are dressed very smart and the ready made clothing they sell are the latest styles. Most outfits seem new to the series although I think I recognized one or two dresses from Lark Rise To Candleford.

Scenes: The glittering world of The Paradise was shot on location at Lambton Castle a grand place that transformed into an apartment store. Also the Glendenning estate was shot at Biddick Hall not too far away. The Paradise is resplendent and filled with props and decorations that makes the viewer really want to go shopping! The floral wallpaper in the Ladies Wear section where Denise works is quite exquisite and reminds me of something similar I've seen before. Each scene is period drama eye candy at it's best - so full of color, pattern, texture and overall stunning beauty!

Questionable Content: To me the first episode seems like the worst because you're just meeting the characters and there are many rumors especially about Mr. Moray's seductive ways. As the series progresses and you learn more about each character there is less scandalous notions. It is true many ladies are attracted to Mr. Moray and a couple even throw themselves at him but most of it is talk and nothing is shown. There are situations of unwed mothers, unhappy marriages and adultery mentioned as part of the story. There is some heavy kissing between some of the characters from time to time, also some of the dress necklines are a bit low.  No outstanding language is used that I can recall.

Actors & Characters:
  • Joanna Vanderham as Denise Lovett - A pretty young shopgirl with new ideas on how to promote business. She is the main character and a lot of the action is seen through her eyes. Joanna is a brilliant young actress and you instantly are drawn into her life at The Paradise. She is so very clever but has to hold in some of her ideas and does make some bad decisions from time to time but always learns from her mistakes. 
  • Peter Wight as Edmund Lovett - Denise's uncle and owner of a small tailor shop across the street from The Paradise. He is a kindly man and a good friend to the workers at The Paradise. His business suffers due to the success of the store opposite him but his fine work is still admired. He's a lovely character although his poetry is quite awful, haha! Peter Wright is easily recognizable from his other period drama work: Old Amos in Lark Rise To Candleford, Mr. Gardiner in Pride & Prejudice (2005), Admiral Croft in Persuasion (2007) and Joseph Rushton from Titanic (BBC TV series). 
  • Emun Elliott as John Moray - Owner of The Paradise who has built it up and modernized it. His wife is three years dead but he fiercely holds onto her memory. His winning personality inspires his employees and charms his customers into big purchases. He's so handsome but I wasn't sure whether to like him or not at first but as the rumors about him are confirmed or disproved I liked him better.
  • Elaine Cassidy as Katherine Glendenning - A rich socialite with eyes for Moray. She is used to getting her way which is sometimes good and sometimes gets her into deeper trouble. She has good qualities and the prettiest clothes but can be quite selfish. Elaine Cassidy's character here is nothing like her character in A Room With A View (2007) but I still enjoy her in this series for the most part. 
  • Patrick Malahide as Lord Glendenning - Prosperous banker and Katherine's father, she can often convince him to give her want she wants but he does have a good deal of sense. He backs The Paradise financially but his business dealings with Moray are sometimes marred by the rocky relationship between Katherine and the shop owner. Patrick Malahide is a brilliant actor who I love seeing in period dramas! He often plays sort of villains and it's nice to see him play this interesting character! 
  • Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey - Head of the Ladieswear department and Denise's supervisor. She demands respect and upright character from the shop girls but in return she mothers them a bit and gives good advice. She does feel threatened a bit by Denise and her grand ideas and can be a bit harsh toward her but overall she is a fairly likable character. If you listen to Sarah Lancashire long enough you will definitely recognize her as the voice of the Older Laura Timmins who narrates some of the story in the Lark Rise To Candleford TV series! Also if you are a Doctor Who fan you will recognize her as Miss Foster the Atipose nanny in the episode "Partners In Crime".   
  • Matthew McNulty as Dudley - Moray's business assistant and long time friend who is often the cautious voice in the risks Moray likes to take. Because I've only seen Matthew McNulty as the dubious Edward Bell in Return To Cranford I tended to distrust him at first but he's really a very nice character once you get to know him. Wait a minute! Matthew McNulty also played Fisher Bloom in Lark Rise To Candleford! No wonder I don't like him...
  • Ruby Bentall as Pauline - A cheerful shop girl and Denise's best friend in the store. It is so nice to have Ruby Bentall in this series! I loved her as Minnie in Lark Rise To Candleford and the character of Pauline is very similar although a bit more worldly in some ways. She is very sweet and such a delight in each scene! 
  • David Hayman as Jonas - He is in charge of security at The Paradise and he's a man of mystery. He has a tragic history but the former Mrs. Moray gave him a chance and now he fiercely guards her memory. He is always writing down secrets in his mysterious journal and keeps everyone on their toes. How far will he go to protect The Paradise is a question most will not dare ask! Actor David Hayman is a Scotsman so his neat accent is very real, I've seen him in a couple other things and he is great at being quite creepy!
  • Stephen Wight as Sam - He is a young salesclerk on the shop floor and a very fun character. He becomes a good friend to Denise and her uncle but it's hard to tell whether he likes Denise, Pauline or Clara best which does cause some tears. He's very kind and one of my favorite characters in the series!
  • Sonya Cassidy as Clara - An anxious shop girl with a troubled past, she instantly takes a dislike to Denise and causes problems for her throughout the series. She has eyes for Mr. Moray which does cause a couple uncomfortable scenes, she has secrets of her own and sometimes has to bend her pride to accept Denise's help. Not one of my favorite characters but she does add drama!
  • Finn Burridge as Arthur - A young apprentice and messenger at the store, Arthur was born at The Paradise and has lived there ever since. He knows most everything there is to know about the store and helps Denise get settled in when she first arrives. It's hard to not like Arthur, he's sweet and cheeky but sometimes gets in trouble from knowing too many secrets.

Season One, Special Guests:
  • Olivia Hallinan as Jocelin Brookmire - You'll instantly recognize her from Lark Rise To Candleford but it's a bit odd to see her play a rich socialite that is more like Lady Adelaide than the independent country girl Laura Timmins. Her character is nervy and holds secrets from even her best friend Katherine Glendenning. Olivia Hallinan is brilliant as always!
  • Arthur Darvill as Bradley Burroughs - You should recognize this brilliant actor as Edward "Tip" Dorrit in Little Dorrit, but if you adore him as Rory Williams in Doctor Who (like I do! aww!) you will be a bit disappointed by his role here because Burroughs is selfish, thinks he's all that and creeps out the lady customers a bit. Burroughs is the local barber who agrees to sell his shop to Moray on condition he is made partner in The Paradise. What happens next is a bit bizarre but it does generate some brilliant comments from Pauline! 
  • David Bamber as Charles Chisholm - He's another local shop owner who sees business drop due to the success of The Paradise. He's a bit comical but David Bamber is no less brilliant than he usually is. You will recognize him from his roles in Pride & Prejudice (1995), Miss Potter, The King's Speech and Daniel Deronda to name a very few!
  • Mark Bonnar as Peter Adler - The philanthropic head of a foundling home (or orphanage), he is kind, handsome, well bred, very talented and somehow foolishly falls for Katherine Glendenning. It's nice for Moray to have a bit of competition and Mr. Adler does seem to bring out some of Katherine's better qualities. He is in a few episodes but I wish he were in many more because he's a great character! Ha, he's also in Doctor Who! 

Lark Rise To Candleford Similarities:
So partway through my first viewing of the series besides recognizing five of the actors from "Lark Rise" there also began to be something familiar in the way the lines were formed and said as well as the way the scenes were filmed. This sparked my curiosity so I looked it up and sure enough the show's creator/writer/producer is Bill Gallagher who wrote/produced/directed the Lark Rise To Candleford series! No wonder The Paradise was sounding/looking so familiar and seemed rather like an old friend! Many of the costumes were created by Phoebe De Gaye who worked on "Lark Rise" too.
There is also many similarities in the storyline and type of characters. Both series feature a young lady who leaves home and enters a career as the main character. Denise Lovett is independent, creative, opinionated and has several love interests like Laura Timmins. Shop owner Mr. Moray reminds me of a cross between postmistress Dorcas Lane and entrepenuer James Dowland. Miss Audrey reminds me Miss Pearl Pratt. Sam reminds me a bit of Alf Arless. Katherine Glendenning reminds me of Lady Adelaide. Mr. Dudley reminds me a bit of Mr. Timmins. And of course Pauline reminds me of Minnie! Perhaps the similarities between The Paradise and the beloved Lark Rise To Candleford might explain why it was not quite as popular and only made it to two season, but the storyline is perhaps not quite as interesting.

My Thoughts: Well, I wasn't sure about the series at first glance, it does have some slightly questionable themes snuck in from time to time and the story progresses at an odd rate, but as I got into the series I found myself enjoying it more and more! It is a beautifully filmed series with wonderful actors and clever characters. There are some very clever lines and some very sweet moments too! After finishing the first series I really wanted to watch the next series but it's not available yet so instead I just started the first series over again! It's surprising how many little signs and moments I missed the first time that I caught on my second viewing. Definitely a new favorite series for me though I know it's not for everyone.

My Recommendations: There are some PG-13 themes mentioned from time to time but overall the series is fairly clean - the first episode is unfortunately the worst as far as the underlying theme of scandal goes. I do recommend the series, especially if you like Lark Rise To Candleford and Downton Abbey then you will enjoy The Paradise!

Have you seen The Paradise, Season One?
Which characters are your favorites?
Have you seen any of Season Two?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Period Drama Character Name Game {1}

Here's a game all about the characters in period dramas! I'll give you the name of a character and you tell me which period drama they come from. Most of these shouldn't be too difficult if you've hung around my blog very long. ;)

To Play: Look at the character names below and guess which period dramas each one comes from. Leave your guesses in a comment and I will respond with your score. Answers will be posted next weekend.

Scoring: Ten points for each correctly guessed period dramas. A high score of 200 points can be earned.

Period Drama Characters:

#1. Dick Dewey

#2. Lucy Honeychurch

#3. Allan Woodcourt

#4. Dorothea Brooke

#5. Henry Crawford

#6. Sybil Crawley

#7. Charles Darnay

#8. Barabara Spooner

#9. Gilbert Blythe

#10. Sophia Croft

#11. Gabriel Oak

#12. Matilda Jenkyns

#13. Henleigh Grandcourt

#14. Denise Lovett

#15. Robert Martin

#16. Edith Adelon

#17. Louis Trevelyan

#18. Laura Timmins

#19. Caractacus Potts

#10. Danielle De Barbarac

Happy guessing!

Faces Of Period Drama Game {5} - Answers!

These are the answers for the Faces Of Period Drama Game {5} from last round. Y'all did amazing on your guesses! Thanks for playing!

Period Drama Faces:

Face #1
Actor Name: Emily Blunt
Character Name: Queen Victoria
Period Drama: The Young Victoria

Face #2
Actor Name: David Morrissey
Character Name: Colonel Brandon
Period Drama: Sense & Sensibility (2008)

Face #3
Actor Name: Juliet Stevenson
Character Name: Mrs. Augusta Elton
Period Drama: Emma (1996)

Face #4
Actor Name: Michael Fassbender
Character Name: Mr. Edward Rochester
Period Drama: Jane Eyre (2011)

Face #5
Actor Name: Alex Kingston
Character Name: Mrs. Bennet
Period Drama: Lost In Austen

Face #6
Actor Name: Michael Gambon
Character Name: Lord Charles Fox
Period Drama: Amazing Grace

Face #7
Actor Name: Sinead Cusack
Character Name: Mrs. Hannah Thornton
Period Drama: North & South (2004)

Face #8
Actor Name: Derek Jacobi
Character Name: The Grandfather
Period Drama: The Old Curiosity Shop (2007)

Face #9
Actor Name: Tamsin Greig
Character Name: Miss Bates
Period Drama: Emma (2009)

Face #10
Actor Name: Rufus Sewell
Character Name: Will Ladislaw
Period Drama: Middlemarch (1994)

Face #11
Actor Name: Imogen Poots
Character Name: Fanny Austen Knight
Period Drama: Miss Austen Regrets

Face #12
Actor Name: Denis Lawson
Character Name: John Jarndyce
Period Drama: Bleak House (2005)


Players Scores:
Miss Sneyd - 320 points
Esther Romaine - 300 points
Birdie - 280 points
Kristine - 280 points
Melody - 280 points
Arwen Undomiel - 270 points
Emma Jane - 260 points
Sadie - 210 points
McKenna - 200 points
Naomi Bennet - 150 points
Molly - 120 points
Evie Scott - 80 points

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Middlemarch Quotes

While browsing Pinterest for photos for my Middlemarch (1994) review I found these lovely quotes from George Eliot's Middlemarch book. Several of these were quite thought provoking so I wanted to share them with you.

Which quote is your favorite?
Have you ever read Middlemarch?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Middlemarch (1994)

Back about 12 years or so I first watched Middlemarch (1994) with my family. I remember my parents enjoyed it but that it didn't end happily as happily as other period dramas we were starting to watch. I tried watching it about a year ago but got bored by the second episode. This time I had all day to just enjoy all of the episodes and watch it at my own pace. I quite enjoyed it, though there are moments of heartache, but overall it does end fairly well and there are lots of interesting characters!

Story: 19th century Great Britain. The Industrial Revolution brings both the promise and fear of change. In the provincial town of Middlemarch, the progressive Dorothea Brooke desperately seeks intellectual fulfillment in a male-dominated society and is driven into an unhappy marriage to the elderly scholar Casaubon. No sooner do they embark on their honeymoon than she meets and develops an instant connection with Casaubon's young cousin, Will Ladislaw. When idealistic Doctor Lydgate arrives, his new methods of medicine sweep him into the battle between conservatives and liberals in town. He quickly becomes enamored of the beautiful, privileged Rosamond Vincy, a woman whose troubles seem bound to destroy him.

Costumes: Very elegant and suits the Romantic era very well, but quite a few of the dresses are more plain than you'd expect. A lot of the costumes are in plain colors and have little print or embellishment. Accessories are often sparse but there are some pretty shawls and bonnets. Hairstyles are on the more simple side for the era too but are in keeping with the characters. Costumes are just on the plainer side when compared to other films of the period such as Wives & Daughters and Little Dorrit. A couple of the dresses do look familiar, for instance there is one pink dress Rosamund wears that Pet Meagles also wears in Little Dorrit.

Music: There is a very catchy theme song and some pretty theme music throughout. There are some lovely piano pieces played and Rufus Sewell even sings an Italian song with Rosie.

Scenes: Filmed on location in grand country houses, village streets and squares, rolling country sides and Italian architecture. The indoor scenes are sometimes darker but the quality of filming is good overall although a bit older looking.

Questionable Content: There are a few kissing and cuddling scenes between husband and wife but they don't get gross. It is clear that one couple's marriage is mostly based on physical attraction and another couple has little physical attraction. There is some drinking and smoking but nothing excessive. There are some tragedies that might not be appropriate for young kids and there's some mild cursing.

Actors & Characters: There are a lot of wonderfully talented actors in this miniseries. Below are some of my thoughts on the main characters and some more recognizable actors.
  • Juliet Aubrey as Dorothea Brooke - Strong and sympathetic character, you cheer for her and cry for her. She is selfless, kind and always desires to be of help to those around her. She also loves to learn and improve herself. She is more or less the heroine of the story and she is played very well by the lovely and talented Ms. Aubrey. 
  • Patrick Malahide as Reverend Edward Casaubon - A man of big dreams but afraid of criticism. His story is quite sad in the end and it is too bad that he does not reach out to Dorothea as she is reaching out to him.
  • Rufus Sewell as Will Ladislaw - Reverend Casaubon's artistic nephew who doesn't see eye to eye with him and eventually gets disinherited. But he starts up a newspaper with Mr. Brooke as his beneficiary and helping Mr. Brooke with his political aspirations. Will and Dorothea become friends and through their talks we learn more about his interesting and slightly tragic history. I have a hard time deciding whether I like Will Ladislaw or not, he is fairly straightforward and kind but he also seems selfish and secretive sometimes. Either way he is played very well by well known actor Rufus Sewell.  
  • Robert Hardy as Mr. Arthur Brooke - He is rather funny character in his mannerisms and he does seem to be in for modern changes but when he finally figures out what that entails and things are quite funny after that.
  • Douglas Hodge as Dr. Tertius Lydgate - An intelligent and sensible physician and sort of a hero type in the story, but he is foolish in love. Similar to Mr. Bennet from Pride & Prejudice and Dr. Gibson from Wives & Daughters, he marries a beautiful young woman who brings him into debt and unhappiness. To his credit he never leaves her and is mostly patient through all her foolishness even though she speaks of leaving him. His priorities are not always straight but he is always practical and comes back to the right.
  • Trevyn McDowell as Rosamund Vincy Lydgate - She is very pretty, talented and fun but we only like her because true hearted Tertius loves her so much. She is so foolish and vain and is the cause of her husband's financial ruin, a fact which she never seems remorseful for. I see her as a kind of Mrs. Bennet and it's sad to see that in the end she never loved her husband as much as he loves her. 
  • Rachel Power as Mary Garth - She's so sensible and kind with great insight. We never really understand why she loves Fred Vincey but she has amazing wisdom in refusing him and not accepting his selfish and childlike behavior. She sees that he can be better and by sticking to her standards it makes him want to be better too and do something of his life. She is very wise and sweet.
  • Jonathan Firth as Fred Vincy - A true wastrel who brings his family and friends into financial ruin with his careless gambling. He does have a kind and remorseful heart under all of that and his love for Mary helps him become a better man for her sake. 
  • Caroline Harker as Celia Brooke Chettam - Dorothea's sister and Mr. Brooke's niece, she is pretty and fairly uninteresting. She marries well and tries to advise Dorothea in the ways of proper decorum and society. As a fun side note actress Caroline Harker is sister to Susannah Harker who played Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1995)! 
  • Julian Wadham as Sir James Chettam - A well known face in period dramas and fun to see here. His character is kind and honorable but at the same time boring and aristocratic.  
  • Simon Chandler as Rev. Farebrother - Dr. Lydgate's friend who advises him well, gets caught up in the political mess of Middlemarch and has his own heartbreaks in love. He's a nice character although a little too progressive as a minister.
  • Peter Jeffrey as Mr. Bulstrode & Rosemary Martin as Mrs. Bulstrode - A rather odd pair with a strong faith but some dark secrets. They are rather an odd pair and don't add that much to the story but are interesting none the less. 
  • John Savident as Raffles - An old scoundrel who threatens blackmail on Mr. Bulstrode. It seems like I've seen this actor somewhere before but can't figure out where other than a few obscure roles in other BBC dramas. 
  • Stephen Moore as Mayor Vincy & Jacqueline Tong as Mrs. Vincy - A rather stuck up pair but they explain why Fred and Rosamund have ended up having such a privileged attitude. But I do admire Mr. Vincy for trying to give Fred a good start.
  • Clive Russell as Caleb Garth & Gabrielle Lloyd as Mrs. Garth - This pair is probably the happiest married couple in Middlemarch, very well matched and good parents. Along with their daughter Mary they are some of my favorite characters.
  • Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Cadwallader - A very well known face in period drama and portraying the same gossipy meddling character that she does so well! 
  • Pam Ferris as Mrs. Dollop - The character is a fairly trivial part but I mention her because it is almost surprising to me how many period dramas she pops up in!
  • Judi Dench as voice of George Eliot - Her voice pops up towards the end as "the author" explains what happens to each of the characters in their lives after the story. Lovely to hear such a familiar voice!

My Thoughts: Middlemarch (1994) certainly is not the happy sweet romance story that you come to expect from period dramas, but it is not near as bad or boring as I had remembered. The characters do go through their share of heartache and trials, but most of them end comparatively happily and the evil characters are brought to justice. It is not as heart wrenching as George Eliot's other stories such as Daniel Deronda and Silas Marner, and I liked a few of the characters much more (though none compares to Daniel Deronda's goodness). Eliot's stories remind me of stories by Anthony Trollope and Robert Hardy such as Barchest Chronicles, He Knew He Was Right and The Mayor of Casterbridge. I did feel quite sorry for Dorothea that she was unable to do all the good that she had hoped, but she did end up with true love, which is one thing that she seriously lacked in her life. This is definitely not my favorite period drama but it is very well done and deserving of more attention than I had preciously given it. And we must remember that it was due to it's popularity that BBC went ahead with their next big miniseries Pride & Prejudice (1995)! As a side note I find it funny that Jonathan Firth was cast as a heartthrob in this film before his big brother Colin Firth would become the ultimate heartthrob Mr. Darcy!

Thoughts On Marriage: Middlemarch has a lot of ideas on marriage in Victorian England and shows this through several different types of problems in marriage such as a husband who does not let his wife be his equal, a couple close to financial ruin due to poor choices, a wife who meddles behind her husband's back and several couples who keep secrets from each other and miscommunicate. The moral of the story in my mind is to take a cue from Mary Garth stay unmarried until you are sure you found the right person. Also that communication and forgiveness are keys to a good marriage.

My Recommendation: I'd recommend Middlemarch (1994) to teens and adults who have enjoyed other period dramas such as Daniel Deronda (2002), Barchester Chronicles and Cranford. It's not that it has anything bad in it really but the slower pace and themes of marriage and politics make it better for older viewers.

Have you seen Middlemarch (1994)? What did you think of it?

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