And the Winner is….Pride and Prejudice!

Colin Firth is a favorite for the best actor Oscar to match his Golden Globe and BAFTA awards — for his role in The King’s Speech.  But apparently he has already won our hearts, in 1995, in the BBC’s miniseries of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Who can forget his memorable Fitzwilliam Darcy?

Victoria here; the January issue of the BBC History Magazine caught up with me and I was amused to see their list of favorite “Best Television Costume Dramas.”  None of us will be surprised, I am sure, to find this 1995 production in first place.  The magazine reports that 14.1% of their 3,229 respondents  voted for P and P. 

The conclusion of Pride and Prejudice, the miniseries
Watch the “Colin in lake with wet shirt” video here (1,605,694 views so far).

In second place, and this was a bit of a surprise to me, was I, Claudius from 1976.  How young Derek Jacobi looks in this DVD cover picture of him in the title role. 

I remember this wonderful series about the supposedly mad Claudius and the wild history of the Rome of which he eventually became the Emperor.  I particularly remember the role of Livia, wife Augustus, played by Sian Phillips. She was the  personification of malevolence.  The series was based on the novel by Robert Graves and ran for several seasons.  It might have been high in the memory of viewers because the BBC has recently done a radio drama of the novel.

Upstairs, Downstairs, which began in 1971, took third place.  Again, it is familiar to viewers because it has recently returned in a new version, yet to be seen on this side of the pond.  The adventures of the Bellamy family and their servants was required watching for me for many years, and I have enjoyed the  dvds too.  Kristine saw a couple of the new episodes when she was in London at New Year’s and says we will all love them when they arrive here.

In fourth place was Downton Abbey, which was a distinct disappointment to me. It sounded like it had everything I would adore — script by Julian Fellowes, actors such as Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith, a huge pile of a country house that made Wretched Excess look tasteful…what could possibly be  unsatisfactory?  Cliche-ridden story, unconvincing characters, silly disagreements masquerading as substantial — I can only think that people voted for it because they remembered it so well, not because it was GOOD.  I just felt I’d seen it all before, and Fellowes packed so many “tried-and-true” situations into it that I wanted to scream.  Of course, I have to say it is much better than almost anything else on tv. Damned with faint praise???  I do look forward to improvements next season. Never say die.

Cranford, from 2007, won fifth place.  And this one I really enjoyed. Taken from several novels by Elisabeth Gaskell, the story revolves around life in an 1840’s English Village. The coming of the railroad challenges a number of traditions but life — birth, courtship, marriage, and death — continues to absorb the villagers.  Of course, anything with Judi  Dench will by on my ‘must” list — but I used to feel that way about Maggie Smith too.

The  BBC History Magazine (in an article by David Musgrove) expressed some surprise that The Tudors only ended up in 14th place. Given the current fascination with all things Tudor and Elizabethan, perhaps that was unexpected by many. But, though I enjoyed every episode and never had the irritation I felt at Downton Abby’s trite story, I really didn’t think The Tudors was all that great. Costumes were wonderful; and the cast was good. But how many  of us could really see Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII.  Even when they padded him up at the end, he looked like a hunky stud with pillows tied around his waist.  Give me Charles Laughton as Henry any time!

Sixth place went to another of my favorites, Brideshead Revisited (1981) and seventh went to The Forsyte Saga from 1967, which I watch every 3 or 4 years,whether I need to or not!.

To see the complete list of also-rans, click here.

Soames, Irene and Young Jolyon
The Forsyte Saga

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