The Story of the Costume Drama

The Story of the Costume Drama

By E1 Entertainment

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Description & Features+

Peer behind the ornate clothing, sprawling manors, and addictive story lines that have riveted millions of television viewers. Featuring interviews with the writers, directors, and stars of iconic productions, this series reveals how the often controversial sagas altered the television landscape and launched the careers of many young actors. From 1955’s fanciful Adventures of Robin Hood to 2007’s racy Fanny Hill, costume dramas have toppled taboos and quickened pulses. Programs like Edward & Mrs. Simpson ruffled establishment feathers, while popular series Upstairs, Downstairs and The Forsyte Saga emptied pubs, wrecked social calendars, and forced vicars to revise parish schedules. Narrated by Keeley Hawes (Wives and Daughters) and seen on PBS, it’s required viewing for any fan of British television. Featuring stars and scenes from Brideshead Revisited; I, Claudius; Pride and Prejudice; The Jewel in the Crown; Poldark; Horatio Hornblower; Elizabeth I; Sharpe; Edward the King; Lillie; Moll Flanders; Doctor Zhivago; My Boy Jack; Cranford; and many more. Episode 1: The Greatest Stories Ever Told - Costume dramas have shaped television tastes of today through explosive stories of yesteryear. In 1978, Edward and Mrs. Simpson rankled royals, and 1971’s Upstairs, Downstairs served up issues that resulted in a partial ban in the States. Brideshead Revisited and The Jewel in the Crown brought cinema-quality production to 1980s TV. Episode 2: The Stars - Costume dramas ignited young performers’ careers and benefited from the glow of established stars. Alex Kingston’s Moll Flanders led her to ER, and Keira Knightley’s Lara in Doctor Zhivago got Hollywood calling. Conversely, Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall and Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe defied typecasting in My Boy Jack. Episode 3: Affairs of the Heart - The “bodice rippers” of the 1990s helped costume dramas shed their staid reputation as quickly as characters doffed their period garb. Colin Firth’s wet-shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice and the romps of Moll Flanders epitomized a slew of saucy literary adaptations. Earlier dramas like Edward the King exposed royal infidelities. Episode 4: Picture Perfect - The pursuit of high production values drove costume dramas out of the studio and into real castles and countryside. Castle Howard attracted tourists after appearing in Brideshead Revisited, rugged Cornwall lent local color to action-packed Poldark, and a Lithuanian river became a Renaissance-era Thames for Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth I. Episode 5: A Call to Arms - Costume dramas spawned an army of dashing heroes in uniform, but not all fought with the aplomb of Sean Bean’s Sharpe or Ioan Gruffudd’s Horatio Hornblower. The Monocled Mutineer opened a controversial chapter of World War I and A Piece of Cake’s flying stunts rewrote the Battle of Britain.


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