Valentine's shopping list – British drama edition


Not to worry, British drama fans. Didn’t leave you out of the Valentine’s shopping mix. Took care of the comedy folks yesterday, time for the top five all-time favorite drama DVD sets that will be great additions to DVD libraries across the land. Don’t forget that if you click the link below which takes you to Amazon and actually purchase something, KERA gets a small percentage of that purchase to support British comedy programming.

Again, all you have to do now is remember the flower/dinner part of the equation.

I Claudius

images.jpgTo this day, this 13-part series, starring Sir Derek Jacobi, John Hurt and Brian Blessed, is still pure greatness and consistently ranks in every poll every done as one of the best in BBC history. In addition to the series, in the true sense of “DVD extras” you also get a documentary feature, The Epic That Never Was which is a behind-the-scenes look at the ill-fated 1937 screen adaptation of I, Claudius, starring Merle Oberon and Charles Laughton.

Poldark

images.jpgGiven the age of this series, not much in the way of “DVD extras”, but it’s still recognized as one of the all-time favorites both on the BBC and on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Theatre series. The New York Times originally wrote that Poldark, starring Robin Ellis, was a “romantic adventure, complete with raging ambition, terrible betrayals, frustrated loves, daring deeds, and a marvelously dashing hero”. How can you go wrong with that? Anyone remember Robin Ellis in the Fawlty Towers “Touch of Class” episode?

Upstairs Downstairs – The Complete Megaset

images.jpgDefinition of “megaset”? Easy. 68 episodes, 20 DVD’s. Also includes shows not aired during the original broadcast and an hour-long retrospective Upstairs Downstairs Remembered: The 25th Anniversary Special. Have to think the Bellamy family exploits at 165 Eaton Place and their servants below made up the first reality series ever on television….and, the best.

Includes shows not aired during the original broadcast
Includes the hour-long retrospective Upstairs Downstairs Remembered: The 25th Anniversary Special

Sherlock Holmes – The Complete Granada Television Series

sherlock-bottom-left.jpgWe already know where I stand in the whole “Jeremy Brett vs. Robert Downey Jr” issue so how could I not include this in my top five. I know, I need to let this go, but it’s still one of the greats of all time in the early days of the PBS series, Mystery, when you had Poirot, Miss Marple and Rumpole of the Bailey to look forward to along with Sherlock Holmes. Along with the 41 episodes on 12 discs, you also get promos, commentary tracks, an exclusive interview with Edward Hardwicke, who played Dr. Watson, an interview with Adrian Conan Doyle and more.

Brideshead Revisited – 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

images.jpgLast, but certainly not least, another classic from Great Performances starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. If Upstairs/Downstairs was early, early reality television, Brideshead Revisited was definitely appointment television in those days along with Dallas and, later, Tales of the City. Again, given the age of the series, not much in the way of “extras”, but  you do get the full 11-hour series, a retrospective documentary, Revisiting Brideshead, outtakes, a companion guide with director’s introduction, episode descriptions, an Evelyn Waugh biography, photo gallery, production notes and cast filmographies.

My work here is done. The rest is up to you for Valentines Day. Anyone else have a different top-five to help out?


  • 1. “Jane Eyre” (BBC 1983, starring Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre, Timothy Dalton as Rochester, and Judy Cornwell, of “Keeping Up Appearances” fame, as Mrs. Reed. The definitive adaptation.
    2. “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” (BBC 1982) starring Jeremy Brett and Jane Lapotaire. The best adaptation of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s love story.
    3. “Our Mutual Friend” (BBC 1998), starring Keeley Hawes (“MI5”), Paul McGann (“Collision,” the 1996 “Doctor Who” movie), David Morrissey (“Sense and Sensibility”), Steven Mackintosh (“Prime Suspect”), and Anna Friel. Love, class, money, and Dickens.
    4. “Cranford” (BBC 2007), starring Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins. An adaptation of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell’s novel of the same name, with some additions from other stories by Gaskell.
    5. “Return To Cranford” (BBC 2009), starring Judi Dench. The sequel to “Cranford” and a nice rounding off of the story.

    • @Lisa: great list. Will grant you Jane Eyre if you give me I Claudius….or we just expand the top list to six. Haven’t seen Barretts of Wimpole Street, but given it has Jeremy Brett, definitely will check it out.

  • Anglophilesouth

    I second Lisa’s votes for Jane Eyre and Cranford. The 2006 Masterpiece version of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens is also excellent. I would also add ALL the new Jane Austen remakes that have aired on Masterpiece since last year. I especially enjoyed Northanger Abbey since I had never seen the 1986 BBC version of it and I love J.J. Feilds.

    • @Angliophilesouth: Since I gave Lisa Jane Eyre in exchange for I Claudius, I’ll offer you the same deal. Grant you Cranford for Upstairs/Downstairs. Deal? If so, the list is now at seven.

  • Oh, expand the list! It could prob’ly go to ten, w/ the addition of some recent Jane Austen adaptations.
    Oops on me! I just remembered that I’m not sure if “The Barretts of Wimpole Street” is available!! I was just thinking more of quality! Sorry about that!