Monday, November 17, 2014

TV I Love: 'North & South' and 'The Forsyte Saga'

For some reason, my Netflix "Suggestions For You" list is consistently chock-full of period British miniseries. Apparently its recommendation algorithm is so good, that it can simply divine that I would enjoy them. Skynet, man.

How does it know?!?!

Anyway, this magical technology led me to two new (to me) and wonderful discoveries in the world of melodrama in hoop skirts and posh accents. North & South and The Forsyte Saga.

I admit, North & South had been on my radar for some time and everything I had heard about it led me to suspect that it would be up my alley. Don't ask me why it took me so long to finally sit down and watch it. But about 40 minutes into the first episode, probably around the time when new girl in town Margaret Hale is giving a piece of her mind to factory owner John Thornton, I was hooked. Hooked as in even though I started the show on a Sunday night at 9 PM and there were four one-hour episodes to get through, I watched them all. That night. Whoops.

Was I bleary-eyed the next day at work? Yup. Was the swoony, dramatic final episode soooo worth it? You can bet your bonnet.

The show was beautifully shot and acted, had Downton's Mr. Bates acting very Mr. Bates-like,  and even gave me a new Brit to get moony-eyed over (hello, Richard Armitage). It's based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell--who I have to admit I've never read. I might need to remedy that situation!

Trust me on this one...
The Forsyte Saga is a 10-part series made around the same time as North & South (early 2000s). It follows three generations of a wealthy family over the course of 50 years (1870 through 1920). And, believe me, this family sees its share of scandal, tragedy, and dramatic levels of stalking.

Its production value is a bit lower than North & South and I think some of the storylines can veer a tiny bit too far into soap territory. That being said, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. And, ultimately, I really got into the character arc of Soames Forsyte (played by Damian Lewis) who, besides having a last name as a first name, spends a lot of the show desperately looking like he really needs a mustache to twirl and yet somehow manages to redeem himself in the end.

Somebody give this man some facial hair to grab onto.

The Forsyte Saga is based on a series of books by John Galsworthy--who won a Nobel Prize in Literature for it. (I've also now added them to my to-be-read list.)

So if your "recently watched" list looks anything like mine and you haven't checked these two out yet, I highly recommend them. And if you and/or Netflix have some other hatted and corseted Brits to recommend to me, I am all (delicate) ears.


  1. I tried posting here earlier but something went sideways and it didn't show up. So, here I am again asking if you are really only now discovering Richard Armitage. What about his turn as the Sheriff of Notingham (BBCs newest take on Robin Hood from a few years ago)? And have you seen The Vicar of Dibley series from a few years be for that? He's the lucky man who married the vicar in a Christmas special. Last of all, please, PLEASE tell me you know RA is now and will be forevermore Thorin Oakenshield. Please. (BTW, are you planning on attending the midnight premiere of The Battle of the Five Armies on 17 December? I hope so.)

    Damian Lewis played MAJ Dick Winters in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers (a good book as well as excellent TV production) and that's how I always see him. Now, though, I think I'll put both your recommendations on my tbw(to be watched) list. Thanks :-)

    1. Ha, Suzanne! Well, you are now the second person to recommend 'Robin Hood' to me so I will have to check that out! I saw one episode of the Vicar of Dibley last year, but it didn't really capture my attention for some reason. And, here's where things will get strange, I know, but---I'm not really a fan of 'The Lord of the Rings.' I have yet to make it through a single movie (or book for that matter) without falling asleep. Something about walking up and down all those hills. I did like the book 'The Hobbit' but I have no clue why it's divided into three movies---and after falling asleep through the first movie (again--despite the Martin Freeman!)...I just had to give it up as a lost cause. LOTR is one of the hubby's favorites though so it's one of the few geeky things we agree to disagree on!

  2. That's ok, Sarv. To each his own and all that. Just don't try to get a sensible word out of me the morning after the midnight premiere of THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES. I'm going to be exhausted!