While UK audiences are now under two short weeks until the premiere of Downton Abbey, America continues to slowly pass the time until its return in January 2016. Fortunately, it’s drama overload until then on Sunday nights which began on PBS this past Sunday with the premiere of Arthur & George, starring Martin Clunes as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Up next is Indian Summers starring Julie Walters which premieres on September 27 and then Home Fires, which tells the story of a group of inspirational women in a rural Cheshire community living in the dark shadow of World War II.
Without question, World War II separated countless women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, with those left behind finding themselves under increasing and extraordinary pressures in a world turned upside down. In Home Fires, the women of Cheshire form the Great Paxford Women’s Institute, whose sole purpose is to help maintain the nation’s fabric in its darkest hour. While the members of the isolated village couldn’t feel further away from the impending bloodshed and battlefields, they soon find out they are not immune from the effects of war.
Inspired by Julie Summers’ non-fiction book, “Jambusters”, a second set of six new episodes of the World War II drama began filming in Cheshire this week which are tentatively set to transmit in 2016 on ITV in the UK and, most likely, follow not long after as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series in America.
For series two, it’s the summer of 1940 and the village of Great Paxford is caught up in the nightmare of the Battle of Britain. Two weeks after the defeat at Dunkirk, the German army is advancing through France and Britain is bracing itself for invasion. New characters and friendships will also emerge as exhausted and battle-hardened Czech soldiers arrive to set up camp just outside the village.
Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey, Outnumbered) and Francesca Annis (The Little House, Cranford) return for series two along with an impressive ensemble cast including Ruth Gemmell (Penny Dreadful), Claire Rushbrook (Whitechapel), Ed Stoppard (Cilla), Chris Coghill (EastEnders), Clare Calbraith (Vera), Fenella Woolgar (Spies of Warsaw), Mike Noble (Mr Selfridge), and Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant).
So, while lucky UK viewers ready themselves for the final series of Downton Abbey, PBS audiences should check out the premiere of Home Fires beginning October 4. And, in true Alfred Hitchcock-style, look for Julie Summers’ cameo appearance in the series. “I am thrilled to be appearing in a cameo role as a WI county organizer,” said Summers. “My grandmother, a life-long WI member, would undoubtedly approve of me wearing a hat.”
Series 1 of Home Fires premieres on PBS beginning Sunday, October 4 with series 2 coming to ITV in 2016.