Les Misérables, Ep. 5

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While I like Les Misérables, and the novel’s one of my favorite books, there’s some je nes sais quoi aspect that is missing in this production. Perhaps I can’t help but compare a Les Misérables production to the musical, but then why am I completely satisfied with the classics with Michel Simon and Jean Gabin? I watched them after reading the book or seeing the musical and was swept up by the stories. With this version, I’m a bit detached.

This week resumes with Cosette pining for Marius, who’s rather mopey in my opinion. Marius’ friends led by Enjolras decide to seize the moment of General LaMarque’s funeral to start a revolution that will bring about the social change they seek, i.e. better treatment for the poor. Marius is teased for being so in love that he can’t focus on a revolution.

The penniless Marius decides to eat crow and visit his awful grandfather to ask permission to marry. The old man scoffs and just suggests Marius put the girl gramps believes is a pauper up in an apartment and amuse himself till it’s time to marry for status and wealth. Gramps is simply advising Marius to do what he did. To his credit, Marius is appalled and vows to never cross the threshold of his grandfather’s mansion.

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After escaping from jail, Éponine finds Marius and promises to give Cosette a letter from him. Though she’s in love with Marius, she’s willing to aid his love for her rival. She confronts her evil, abusive father in her efforts and while for a time hides Cosette’s new address she eventually tells Marius all and even sacrifices her life for him. The problem with this production was that the love Éponine shows looks so thin. I wondered why she died so Marius, who’s a bit of a wet noodle, could live.

The funeral procession seemed less epic, and probably more authentic, than in the musical. All hell does break loose, but this rush to the barricades didn’t have the impact on me as a viewer as other productions did.

Javert continues to obsessively want to capture Jean Valjean more than he wants to quell a rebellion. This time I wanted a colleague or superior to knock him over the head or ship him off to an asylum.

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Jean Valjean fears Thenardiér and the police and plans to leave France after a few days at a new secret apartment. In addition to retrieving the fortune he’s stashed in the woods, he has to deal with Cosette’s teenage rebellion. Like all her age, she can’t see that her love isn’t quite as important as saving her adopted father’s life. Well, it’s almost excusable as she’s not fully aware of Jean Valjean’s situation. But she does know enough. She’s the one who cleaned his wounds after his fight with Thenardiér’s thugs. He has told her he was in prison. She must remember how he saved her from abuse and neglect.

The episode takes us up to Jean Valjean arriving at the barricade. He’s finally discovered Cosette’s secret romance and selflessly goes to help Marius.

For the most part, Masterpiece has followed Hugo’s story, but as I said something’s missing. Je souhaite que je nouveau quoi.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Wow! I can’t think of a more sincere, thorough look at a man dedicated to making the world a better place. I can be sarcastic and skeptical, you’ve got to have a heart of stone to not be moved by this documentary about the work of Fred Rogers, the force behind the classic children’s show Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood.

This 2018 documentary shows Fred Rogers’ life from when he started his career planning to go seminary and then go into ministry. He was about to enter ministry just as television was gaining steam. Back then children’s television was little more than mean spirited slapstick comedy. While he would have made a fine pastor, he impacted the country much more through broadcast.

Fred understood the power of television and the complexity of children. While networks saw kids as needing little more than cheap laughs, Rogers saw that the medium could do more to help children understand their emotions and the problems of the world that scare us all.

Because it was so different, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood won kids, parents and child development experts over.

The film features his  wife, sons, the actors in the program and others in the media explaining their experience and insights on Fred. It shows Fred interacting with kids as well as speaking before congress. Moreover, it discusses the parodies and challenges that Fred struggled with. It even shows the protestors who came to his funeral. I was surprised that anyone would protest against Mr. Rogers at his funeral in 2003.

No one has followed in his footsteps, which is a pit. We’ve got plenty of snarky humor, more sincerity would be welcome.

It’s a shame that this wasn’t at least nominated for Best Documentary in 2018.

Victorian Slum House

I discovered the absorbing Victorian Slum House series last night and was blown away. It’s a British reality show, which like PBS’ Frontier House took a number of modern people and put them back in the past. The participants of Victorian Slum House go back to the late 19th century to live in poverty in a Victorian slum.

One family  of 5 lives in a one apartment. Another is a tailor’s family and the four of them live in two rooms. As a tailor, they expected to make clothes from scratch. What they learn is their assigned to buy highly worn used clothes and fix or modify them. During the 1860s, when episode 1 is set, poor people didn’t buy new clothes. They bought what was patched up.

There’s a single man who’s a rent collector and also does some woodwork. He did opt to switch his modern protheses for one that resembles what was used back then. The producers did add some material that made it more comfortable than what people of his class had. There’s a couple that are shop keepers and they live on the top floor of the slum. They have better clothing and furnishings. Yet their finances are precarious because they depend upon their customers being able to pay up at the end of the week. No one knows for sure what they’ll earn in a week so their fear is real.

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Sleeping on benches, Victorian era

Finally there’s a single mom with ten year old twins. Her lot is the most precarious. She works from home making fancy gift boxes. She starts with lots of optimism, but bought more food on credit than the others and her earnings fell far short of what she planned. So she’s very close to being evicted. In fact, in the 1860s, my guess is that she would have been and she’d have wound up down stairs in the sleeping room, where people slept on benches sitting up.

The program is full of interesting facts and the participants comments are enlightening.

Victoria, Season 2, Week 5

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The King over the Water

The episode begins with an assassination attempt while Victoria and Albert are out for a carriage ride. When talking with Lord Peel, the PM, Victoria suggests she smoke out the assassin by going for another carriage ride. Albert’s astonished and thinks it’s foolish, but Peel agrees and admires the queen all the more for her courage. Seems like a genius double win for Victoria.

So off they go for another ride and this time Victoria’s got a super, bullet-proof parasol, which Albert made. He sure is handy.

The assassin, who’s an unfortunate, poor man with a club foot and a hump back, again tried to shoot the queen. He was quickly arrested and the palace security is increased, which is tedious.

Needing a change of pace, Victoria proposes a trip to Scotland, where she always wished she could go when she was growing up. Off they go to a Duke’s home where there’s lots of “foreign” food and dancing in the woods. Still as host, the Duke keeps a tight schedule including the blaring of bagpipes for an alarm clock and mind-numbingly boring poetry readings for the visit.

To cure the boredom, while on an outing, Victoria and Albert quickly tell the Duke they’re riding home separately. Albert assures the Duke they’ll be fine because he has a great sense of direction. (Famous last words.) Off they gallop into the highlands. We’re treated to beautiful scenery.

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Scenic Schotland – I’d love to see this

Turns out Albert’s sense of direction isn’t that keen. With no compass or map and with gray clouds looming, our royals realize they’re lost. No matter which way they turn, they can’t find the way back to the castle. As night falls, they realize they must find shelter and wide up staying with an old crotchety couple in their cottage. Plenty of humor is drawn from the peasant farmer and his wife not knowing who their visitors are. Victoria learns to darn socks and Albert tells the farmer that he works at a big factory. The night is a true vacation from their real roles. (This trip with the night in the cottage is pure fiction. Victoria’s diaries show no such experience and there’s no reason her daughter would have expunged it.)

At the castle everyone’s in a state because the queen is lost. The next day, Victoria and Albert are “rescued” by dozens of guards and soldiers. The farmer and his wife learn that they were hosting royals.

As for some subplots:

  • Mrs. Skerret dances night after night with a dashing Scottish lad, who’s smitten. She will not let him write to her in London. So she’s leaving herself open to Mr. Francatelli’s advances, though she’s also been snippy with him.
  • Ernst, who’s seemingly come to terms with his illness, offers Harriet, his lover, condolences for her husband’s death. She’s in no mood for this and rebuffs him. Their relationship is dead though Harriet doesn’t know Ernst has syphilis. So we’re treated to this impossible tension about a relationship that can’t be. It’s tough being all all-knowing spectator. We can try calling out to the TV, but we know that doesn’t work.
  • The assassin, a character based on “Hunchback William Bean,” gets off lightly with a jail sentence rather than execution since there were no bullets in his gun. He was homeless and prison was a home.
  • The Duchess hoomphs and comments sourly once or twice, so nothing’s moving forward there. She doesn’t get lines that are all that funny. A lot of the dialog, that’s meant to be funny is just cliché.
  • The two gay noblemen have a romantic moment in the Highlands, though the blonde man is quite jealous that his lover is engaged to be married. I can see the jealousy, but doubt anyone in his shoes would be surprised. I bet what would normally happen is both men would marry and they’d carry on their relationship in secret. The only thing that would endanger the situation would be if one had to move far from the other because of family property that had to be managed.
  • Albert is increasingly critical of Lehzen, Victoria’s maid and governess. She wasn’t allowed to go to Scotland. Albert sees her as a threat and doesn’t like how she does things.

After the serious Irish Potato Famine episode, this week we had a pastoral vacation and some light entertainment. While the assignation attempt was real, the night at the farm wasn’t. Thanks to the Internet we can know what’s historic and what’s not and enjoy a night of fine British drama.

Mr Selfridge: Favorite New Character

Note: Since new actresses are playing Violette and Rosalie I’ve included them.

Mr Selfridge, Season 3, Episode 6

SPOILER ALERT

A lot happened this week!

I can’t believe they killed off Doris! Was this necessary? She’s been off screen for two years, married to an ungrateful whiner. They bring her back and reveal that an indiscretion with a school friend, has resulted in her first son and a lie to her husband Mr. Groves.

Doris confided in Miss Mardle, who was involved with Mr Groves before Doris came into the picture. Miss Mardle suggested Doris talk with this friend and let him see his son. Now what will happen? Yes, killing Doris in a car accident opens up a lot of possibilities with the story, but she doesn’t have to resolve this with Mr. Groves. He can now whine some more and perhaps get back with Josie, a.k.a Miss Mardle. I’d hope she doesn’t fall back in with Groves. She’d have to quit her job, which is fine for the right man, to take care of his brood, which doesn’t seem her strong suit. I think she’d go crazy at home, taking care of small children.

This week against Mr. Crabb’s advice, Harry sells some of his shares in the store so he can build a number of homes for WWI veterans. Now he doesn’t have a majority stake (as was the case with the real Harry). Nancy’s conning Harry and stringing him along. So he’s going to lose big soon. The Nancy story isn’t recounted in Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction, & Mr Selfridge so I don’t think it’s historical. It is suspenseful, but I’d like to see Harry less of a victim. The season began with Rose’s funeral, now this? I know the real Mr Selfridge wound up penniless, but I wish they’d postpone that. I do hope Nancy and her partner get their just desserts, i.e. jail time. I wish Mama Selfridge would look into Nancy Webb through the store’s information bureau.

Gordon hired, Pierre Longchamp to replace Henri. (I do miss Henri and Agnes. Again, I think they could have enriched the story by staying.) Longchamp’s arrogant and individualistic. He’s quite creative, but doesn’t think how his ideas and lack of communication impact the store. Gordon made a major faux pas by approving Pierre’s window display. It was to include something French. Rather than seeming out of it and asking for particulars, the newly promoted and very green, Gordon gave Pierre carte blanche. Little did he know he was approving a window featuring women in their undies. Quite a scandal for the era! Mr. Groves saw the trouble brewing and gleefully waited for disaster. Yet it was averted as the striking window brought in the crowds.

Pierre seems less refined and far more arrogant and immature than Henri, or anyone who should run this department. He’ll bring more trouble to Selfridge’s I fear. In this episode he just annoyed me, though his tree display was clever.

Despite her father telling her to stay out of trouble and avoid Victor, defiant Violette can’t help but rebel. When she spoke of not having a purpose, Harry did convince her to help Nancy with the homes for veterans. At first she wanted to do something administrative, but Nancy wants no one looking too closely at this con so she had Violette organize a charity dance, which was a big success. As the party round down Violette slipped off to see Victor, but was turned away at the door. She doesn’t seem like a woman who takes no for an answer though. I do wonder what’ll happen when Violette discovers Nancy’s a con artist. I’d like to see her take on Nancy. It’d be a good way for Violette to come into her own and not be a rich, bratty vixen. She was such a quiet girl in the previous seasons.

Victor might as well join the mafia. He’s continuing on the slippery slope with his night club. So much for the Italian restaurant he was going to start last year. Now for him to open he has to pay the dirty cop three times what was asked earlier. Rather than going out of business, he agrees to let Mike Reagan open a gambling den in the back. George is shocked when he finds out. I think he should go back to work for Harry since Victor’s place is sure to be raided again.

Background: Mr Selfridge

winifred black About Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils, the reporter in tonight’s episode, Encyclopedia Britannica says:

Winifred Black, née Winifred Sweet, (born Oct. 14, 1863, Chilton, Wis., U.S.—died May 25, 1936, San Francisco, Calif.), American reporter whose sensationalist exposés and journalistic derring-do reflected the spirit of the age of yellow journalism. Winifred Sweet grew up from 1869 on a farm near Chicago. She attended private schools in Chicago, in Lake Forest, Illinois, and in Northampton, Massachusetts, and after an unsuccessful attempt to establish herself in the theatre she turned to journalism. On a western trip on family business in 1890, she won a position as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, William Randolph Hearst’s first newspaper. The era of yellow journalism was just dawning, and the example of Elizabeth Seaman (whose nom de plume was Nellie Bly) had helped set the style for woman reporters. Taking the pseudonym Annie Laurie, Sweet scored a number of exposés, scoops, and circulation-building publicity stunts. A “fainting spell” on a downtown street led to an exposé of San Francisco’s receiving hospital and the purchase of a city ambulance. She secured by a ruse an exclusive interview with President Benjamin Harrison aboard his campaign train in 1892; in the same year, she investigated the leper colony on Molokai, Hawaiian Islands. She was also active in organizing various charities and public benefactions, using her column in the Examiner to mobilize public concern; among these was the California Children’s Excursion to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In 1892 she married a colleague, Orlow Black, but they were divorced five years later. In 1895 Hearst sent her to New York City to help his newly acquired New York Journal battle Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, but she found that city uncongenial and in 1897 settled in Denver, Colorado, where she joined the staff of Harry H. Tammen and Frederick G. Bonfils’s boisterous Denver Post. She continued to contribute feature articles to Hearst’s chain as well. When Hearst launched a newspaper campaign against Mormon polygamy in 1898, she went to Utah and reported from the scene. In 1900 she disguised herself as a boy and slipped through a police cordon to become the first outside reporter and only woman journalist to enter Galveston, Texas, in the aftermath of the disastrous flood of September 8. She opened a temporary hospital in the city and administered relief funds collected through the Hearst papers. In 1906 she reported from San Francisco following the great earthquake of April 18, and in 1907 she observed the trial of Harry K. Thaw for his June 1906 murder of architect Stanford White. The favourable coverage accorded by Black and other female reporters to Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, who was the featured attraction of the case, gave rise to the epithet “sob sister.” Though Black married again, the second marriage also ended in divorce. She continued to travel widely as a reporter in her later years. Reference Winifred Sweet Black. (n.d.) Encyclopedia Britanica. Retrieved May 17, 2014.(See if your local library has this encyclopedia online.)