Adapted from three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell (Wives & Daughters, North & South), this beautiful miniseries, written by Heidi Thomas, is one of my favorite guilty pleasure BBC costume dramas. Partly because of its willingness to go places some period dramas do not. While I cannot say it surpasses the exquisite North & South, it’s definitely quality programming.
Cranford and Return to Cranford Masterpiece TV Miniseries Reviews
The story follows the residents of the small English village of Cranford that is primarily full of ladies of a certain age. Chief among
them is the rigid, stickler of rules, Deborah Jenkyns (Eileen Atkins) and her younger, kinder sister Matty (Judi Dench). Into their small town comes widower Captain Brown (Jim Carter) and his unmarried daughters, including Jessie (Julie Sawalha), who breaks her own heart in pursuit of family coming first. This arrival – along with two others, stirs the ladies into a tizzy including the opinionated Miss Poole (Imelda Staunton) and fellow cohorts, the Tomkinson sisters (Deborah Findlay, Selina Griffiths), who live for nothing if not the opportunity to gossip in their parlors.
Coinciding with this is the arrival of – the new, young and attractive, Dr. Harrison (Simon Woods), who makes a splash with all of the younger ladies in town while having to gain the trust of the women who trusts their health to Dr. Morgan (John Bowe) for years. Also new in Cranford is Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon), a young woman acquainted with the Jenkyn sisters and wishing to
escape her stepmother’s attempts to marry her off, the ambitious Mary begs a quiet haven in Cranford.
There is something elegant and mesmerizing to be found among the costume drama world. All of the “little things” superstitiously come together to create a kind of magic Hollywood rarely captures. Each frame of this production offers its viewer something new. I started re-watching this quite a while back and just recently finished it, despite the repetitiveness (who among us hasn’t blogged or read about this?), I couldn’t let the chance to gush about it pass me by – greatness should be documented, readers.
Since most of us have indeed been introduced to the lovely occupants of this charming village, I thought I’d share a few of my
observations and favorite things about this series – everything from the joy of familiar faces before they were anyone to the costuming, here are some *ahem* rambles. Oh and also to avoid confusion, this miniseries is actually told in two separate series, the first is merely called Cranford the second and follow-up sequel is Return to Cranford. I will be referencing both below.
Firstly, and most importantly to most of the avid fangirls we have Tom Hiddleston. I can admit, the fangirl moments make sense now. Honestly because I always root for the good guys, I never fell for this actor as Loki (Thor). But this (William) character is one I do approve of. I enjoy seeing the kind spectrum of his character and the tender way he treats a character that desperately needs kindness in her life. Then, also in Return to Cranford, Michelle Dockery stars in part of this and oh my goodness! Throughout each of her scenes, I kept thinking, “that is SO Lady Mary-like!” Michelle portrayed Lady Mary Crawley before she was Lady Mary. (I know that doesn’t make sense, but… just go with it.)
Beyond the acting and fabulous array of talent (of which there is a lot), the stories are memorable. I’m not sure saying this series isn’t for the “faint of heart” fits. But it really isn’t for anyone who wants an Austen-esque costume drama… and that’s something I love best. It’s not afraid to be “daring” and emotional in one fell swoop. The series makes me cry more than I’m comfortable with and it reminds us that life is fragile among many other beautiful lessons. Along with this comes the warning not to get too attached to certain of the characters – some don’t manage to make it through each story. In spite of that, it’s the characters that pull us into the stories. Even when they’re breaking our heart, these characters are beautiful. Their hearts, their sense of morality, their compassion… just everything about them sparkles. The actors reflect the joy, sorrow, horror and disappointment their respective characters are meant to feel and the finished product is a thing of beauty.
If you’ve yet to meet the residents of Cranford, get a hold of an episode to try. It will break your heart, make you smile (sometimes
through the tears) and laugh-out-loud, and inspire you to look at the bands of friendship through fresh eyes. The ending (Return to Cranford) couldn’t be better, even though this one of those productions I don’t like see draw to a close. Everything about this series is breathtaking – and in some instances ahead of its era.
What about all of you? Have you seen Cranford? If so, what did you think of it; favorite moments, characters or things. Share anything below. The comments are yours.