Jeremy Piven as Mr. Selfridge
It’s springtime on PBS with specials and series blooming this weekend. As pledge week ends (hope you caught the Hullaballoo special and Aaron Neville), the network rolls out some new noteworthy shows. While we may have to wait for Downton Abbey to return, Masterpiece offers more intriguing possibilities for those enamored with period pieces—an American in London at the turn-of-the-last-century and the return of England’s mid-century lasses, plus there's an American Master, too. Tune in or set to record the following:
Friday, March 29, 9 p.m. Philip Roth: Unmasked
Considered one of the best American writers, Philip Roth may be the first writer ever to officially retire, but at least he leaves us a library of 31 books. We can greedily hope there’s another novel in him, but he seems far too pleased with not working. Whine all you like about the author of Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye Columbus tossing his pen, but in this intimate portrait, he bids farewell with thoughtful candor, opening up as he closes the book. Watch and be inspired to read or reread his collection of award-winners.
Sunday, March 31 at 8 pm: Call the Midwife
Here come the fetching young British women who birth babies for the second season of Call the Midwife. If watching ladies in labor doesn’t appeal to you, think twice. Jenny, Trixie, Cynthia, and Chummy charm in these captivating stories with more than enough gripping drama and infectious humor to get hooked. Plus nuns are fun. All based on true tales from the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth about the National Health Service in the East End. In another 50 years, will a U.S. nurse’s journals of Obamacare saving someone with pre-existing conditions inspire a series?
Sunday, March 31 at 9 pm: Mr. Selfridge
The premiere of the new Masterpiece series hopes to snag fans of Downton Abbey in dire need of a fix. While Emmy-winning Jeremy Piven may not be a proper replacement for Matthew Crawley, he’s perfectly cast as the flashy American tycoon who turned shopping into a fashionable experience in London circa 1909. Mr. Selfridge opens his groundbreaking department store and breaks hearts with bags full of sensation. Lavish costumes and opulent sets abound, as well as shop girls and showgirls, even ballerina Anna Pavlova, explorer Ernest Shackleton and F.W. Woolworth drop by for the debut season — check out the High Street drama of philandering and fancy hats.
Written by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House), the series is adapted from the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead about the undressing of a sensational man and the many women he dressed up. (Tweet along with the bearded Piven live during the debut at #SelfridgePBS.)
Call the Midwife photo by Laurence Cendrowicz @NealStreetProductions