Mr Selfridge will forever fall into the same category as Downton Abbey, and as such, it has a lot to live up to. As glossy and well loved as Downton undoubtedly is, Mr Selfridge certainly seems to be holding its own. Screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) knows how to create a period drama; lively, energetic, and most importantly excluding the ludicrous plot twists that Downton seems to be forever pulling out of a dusty closet. Mr Selfridge is everything a period drama should be; sophisticated, entertaining and alluring. Perhaps Jeremy Piven is a little brash and over the top for our sensitive British taste, but his extravagance and vitality are exactly what’s missing from the host of period dramas bombarding our screens at present.
Starring alongside Piven is an incredibly attractive cast, including the return of Gregory Fitoussi as Monsieur Leclair, the irresistible French window dresser, Katherine Kelly as the empowered and enthralling Lady Mae, and Frances O’Connor as Mrs Selfridge. In Season two, the store opens its doors once more but this time Britain on the brink of World War One. The second season was always bound to be much darker, but character interrelations seem to have become equally political and complex in the four years since we last met the staff.
Harry Selfridge is harrowed by the ongoing battle to reunite his family, while his estranged wife Rose makes a glamorous new acquaintance and seeks a business partnership in Soho. While it’s equally complex sailing for the rest of the staff, with Mr Grove (Tom Goodman-Hil) struggling with his ever-growing family, Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) crumbling under new responsibilities and Henri Leclair returning from New York, only a shadow of the man he was before. All this and the talk of trade unions and war set the second season up nicely. Whether the producers will be able to pull of the tragedy of the First World War the same way they pulled off the flamboyance of the first season is yet to be seen, but it is off to a promising start.
Watch Mr Selfridge on ITV, Sundays at 9pm or on ITVplayer now.
You can also read our LSi take on the Dangers of Downton Abbey
Photo: Property of bestbritishtv.com