Shanghai’s Fake Markets

How to bargain in Shanghai. He does a good job and you should bargain hard as he does. I much prefer Beijing’s markets, particularly the Pearl Market to where he’s gone.

If you want to see more, check out this one below.

mr selfridge, recap & comments

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The opening this Mr. Selfridge episode with the removal of all German products was a great way to show the patriotism and anti-German sentiment of the day.

Poor Franco, Victor’s dashing brother, got rejected when the brown-haired girl at the cosmetics counter wouldn’t go out with him because her father forbids her to date “foreign” men. Mind you Franco was born in Britain. Seems she could have been more diplomatic.

The weasel-y Thackery spies outside the store to see what Henri’s up to. He disapproves of Henri’s hat, a Hamburg, though we learn that during the war they were renamed. Agnes was still upset with Henri, who does owe her an apology for being so abrupt and rude the day before.

At home Harry finishes an early morning interview with his reporter friend Frank. Harry makes it clear that he disapproves of the U.S. profiting from war by selling to both the Germans and British. I do agree and didn’t realize we did that. We also learn from Rose that Americans are hurrying home to the U.S.

Gordon, who’s now promoted to the tea department, is getting friendly with Miss Calthorpe, the young lady who’s training him. They do make a good couple and he’s gallant enough to buy her sister a beautiful doll after remembering something she mentioned in passing.

In a department meeting Kitty manages to take a compliment and turn it around to put down all the other department heads. I enjoy her lack of self-knowledge and her usually harmless egotistical quips that just make her look silly in spite of herself. Miss Mardle’s heavy sigh said it all. I love how the shows humor surfaces from Kitty, Mr. Crabb and sometimes Mr. Grove’s little blunders. Harry shares a nice moment with Miss Mardle encouraging her to enjoy her money. Yes, live a little, Miss Mardle. “Your brother would have wanted it.”

At the Loxley house, Lord L slinked into Lady L’s room while she’s preparing her toilette. He’s discovered signs she has a lover and tsk-tsks her in his cold-blooded fashion. He certainly is part reptile. You realize he minimally cares about her. No passion, no anger. It’s all about control. He’s somehow gotten the key to her door. God knows why she let that out of her sight. She’s missed a beat and that’s not like her. She’s quite sad and I think rather fearful that this abusive man has taken her key. I would say she should get another lock tout suite.

Next Bill Summertime (yes, that’s his name) barges in on Harry at work and proposes he help the war effort by spying for the secret service. Harry’s non-committal but will think it over. This could get very interesting and does.

Kitty secures a dinner invitation from Frank who breezes into the store to show Harry his article. Talk about a quick turn around. Seems the interview was before work. When Miss Mardle kindly advises Kitty to be wary of Frank, the known philanderer, Kitty again puts her in her place with a snide personal jibe. If you only knew, Kitty. Miss Mardle has enjoyed a man’s company, just the wrong man’s company –or way too long up till 5 years ago more or less. She knows whereof she speaks.

Thackery throws some barbs Henri’s way. He brings up his Hamburg and notes that his shoes are also made in Germany. Talk about obsessed. Henri brushes off both comments and tells Thackery to dress the mannequins properly. Yes, Thackery, keep your mind on your work. Your department’s slipping. I do wish we could see some of Thackery’s underlings. I imagine many would aim for transfers or quit with regularity.

Harry tells Frank that he’s not at all interested in the procurement committee and that he doesn’t trust Loxley in the least. (Note this for next week, folks.)

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Delphine receives a huge shipment of liquor from Harry, which she takes as a sign. The cogs in her head go full throttle and we can tell she’s got Harry in her sights. Poor, Rose. Who needs such “friends”? I’m guessing Harry is just generous. There’s no sign (yet) that he’s got an interest in Delphine, who fancies herself an expert in men and believes the lie that “I understand him so much better than his wife.” Moreover, she’s distancing herself from Rose, reflecting her invitations with feeble excuses. Yes, it’s easier to seduce a man’s husband if you aren’t friends with her. Though it seemed that Jim was sweet on Delphine and wise enough to suggest that perhaps Delphine doesn’t understand Harry. He was just way too subtle for Delphine.

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Mr. Thackery slithered into Mr. Grove’s office insinuating that Msgr. LeClair is a spy because he looked unkempt and seems secretive. It’s clear that Mr. Groves is just annoyed, but now has to speak with Henri.

Speaking of Henri, in a memorable scene outside the store he is with Agnes, who wears a lovely embroidered jacket. A discussion of whether Agnes could do better than the honest, hardworking Victor leads to her asking him about his secrets. Henri behaves very French-ly (Frenchesque?) and reflects her questions and rebuffs her. She’s saved by Victor’s entrance and he escorts her off to a night of fun at a variety show.

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The show was fun and Miss Mardle and Florian, the Belgian border join Victor and Agnes. (Odd that Victor didn’t mention the male boarder at the store where the news could travel. Was he sworn to secrecy? How does he feel about the “arrangement”?) Back stage Mae asks Richard Chapman, the singer to perform at the Selfridge patriotic concert. She remembers her days on the stage as a popular entertainer when men would lie at her feet in swarms apparently. Richard’s an old friend and Mae soon shares that she’s made a terrible decision, that staying with Lord Loxley is hell. She’s funny, honest, vulnerable and wise.

Gordon surprises Miss Calthorpe with the gift of a doll for her sister, who has few toys. So sweet.

As Henri goes up to see Mr. Groves about Thackery’s troublesome speculations, Agnes hangs up his coat in a way that suggests she’s not over him. I wanted her to go through his pockets in search of clues about his secret. How terrible of me.

Rather than tell Mr. Groves what he’s been up to Henri announces he’s going to hand in his notice. At first it seems like another rash decision just like the end of season 1, but perhaps he is wise. He’s hiding something and did warn Harry that his return to the store wouldn’t be good for anyone. Such cloak and dagger stuff, Henri. What are you up to? I believe and hope there’s a perfectly reasonable, even honorable explanation.

(Grégory Fitoussi’s characters land in jail a lot. Poor Pierre from Spiral, a.k.a. Engrenage was in a terrible fix. Check it out on Netflix. Warning – that French police show is gritty, violent, but the acting is superb.)

After getting a bank loan to reopen his uncle’s restaurant, Victor proposes to Agnes. He thinks it’d be great for them to marry and run the restaurant together. Well, Agnes accepts, so I suppose she is done with Mr. LeClair, but run a restaurant? When you could continue with your career at Selfridges? Agnes, really?

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The show ends with a riveting sequence of scenes cutting between the concert, where Richard brings Mae on stage much to Lord Loxley’s extreme displeasure, to Henri’s search for Harry, who’s been whisked off to Germany to spy, to Henri’s arrest for espionage. The action and cuts from each scene to the next were powerful, some of the best television has offered.

Viewers were left stunned, waiting for more and the next episode is sure to deliver. Do not miss it.

Drama like this is rare and I hope the Mr Selfridge writer is wise enough to stick with WWI for more than one season.

Mr. Selfridge, Season 2

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Mr. Selfridge’s second season kicked off a couple weeks ago. The first episode picks up as Selfridge’s is about to celebrate its firth anniversary. Time’s flown by and it shows for some and not for others, which is odd. I was glad to see my favorite characters/actors, but the first episode was strange because the story pretty much wipes aside, or minimizes the problems Harry faced at the end of season 1 when his wife, fed up with his philandering and the public ridicule of a satirical play about Harry, left as did his best friend and most talented colleague, Henri LeClere. As if that weren’t enough, Harry’s reporter pal childishly turned on him, because he wasn’t available mmm.

I found it implausible that Harry wasn’t more affected by isolation. He’s a gregarious man who needs his social network to make him who he is. Without that energy, Harry’s nothing. He’d have hit rock bottom and then had to find new friends as well as new loves. He did find new women to replace his lover Eva Love, but Henri and Frank’s friendships were left void. I didn’t buy that that wouldn’t have left a big hole or that Selfridge would have tried to fill it. I also found it odd that Rose, Gordon and Frank all reappear at the same time. Yes, it’s the anniversary, but someone would have reconnected earlier and others might never have.

It’s just weird that in pre-WWI era Agnes, Kitty and Vincent are still single. One of them would have married. It’s odd that we don’t really know why Henri hit the skids. If J. Walter Thompson, New York didn’t work out, why not return to Chicago’s Marshall Fields, Macy’s or Paris? Why would he wind up in squalor? It’s not like he’s a gambler or drinker. I’m also surprised that Miss Mardle has chosen to stay on at Selfridge’s and work with her lover Mr. Grove as his new, young wife has baby after baby. Only a glutton for punishment would. Since she took a risk on Selfridge’s store, you’d think she’d have the pluck to get a new job.

Amanda Abbington

The second episode, where Henri seems to return for good, had a better storyline. I’m glad that Miss Mardle has come into money. We’ve got some new villians this year. Poor Lady Mae is married to a wife beater, who’s destitute. He’s cut off her funds since he has no money. It’s good to see Harry defend Lady Mae and all women against this abusive blackguard.

Rose is back and has taken up with a new friend, Miss P whom she met on the ship back to London. Rose needs a few more friends in London, but it’s just too convenient for the writers to make this one the owner of a risqué bar. Mr. Selfridge always tries to titillate in an anachronistic, implausible way.

Agnes’s character and storyline draw me it. I’m happy to see her back from Paris where she apprenticed at Galleries LaFayette. As the new head of display she’s got her hands full, particularly since the new head of fashion took an immediate dislike to her and is doing his best to sabotage her. Thank God, Harry knew that Henri would consider coming back if it were to help this damsel in distress, (whom he loved and left). Though I like Victor, I prefer to see Agnes with Henri. Most characters don’t get two fine young men to choose from. It’s an embarrassment of riches, in a way.

Mr. Selfridge

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That sign is the spitting image of Marshall Field’s sign

I never saw Mr. Selfridge last year. I’d left the US and just didn’t get hooked. Friends thought it wasn’t up to Downton Abbey and no one I knew followed it. From the promos the show seemed more brash, than Downton so I wasn’t drawn to it.

However last year I loved The Paradise, a period drama covering the same exciting era of the development of department stores, which affected women’s rights and freedoms. Shopping was revolutionized (a mixed blessing) as now it wasn’t just a task, but a creative, imaginative endeavor. With a lull in programming for the Anglophile who likes history, I gave Mr. Selfridge a try.

At first I really didn’t like it. Though he was inventive and a caring employer, Harry Gordon Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) is a womanizer, drinker and a bull in a china shop. Though he’s married to a beautiful, smart woman who is portrayed as having no problems in the bedroom, he prefers to frequent girly shows and pursue Eva Love, a burlesque singer. Granted this girly show is PG by our standards, it wasn’t then and it’s hard to get drawn into a show about a pig, after watching Downton Abbey where high standards predominate.

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I’m not sure why, but I did stick with the show and liked it more as time went on. The female characters in this era of suffragettes and working women drew me in. We’re supposed to identify with Agnes (Aisling Loftus), a shop assistant who gets sacked for letting Selfridge behind the counter in the first store she worked in. The stern floorwalker saw this and saw her exchange with friendly, American Selfridge and gave her the sack saying “We’re not that kind of store.” Out on the street, unable to find another job with a younger brother to support, Agnes summons the pluck to ask Mr. Selfridge for a job. Pluck’s Selfridge’s life’s blood and he hires her. In the first season Agnes’ growth has been as compelling as watching Selfridge succeed. She’s been promoted to lady’s fashion, fallen in love (though she doesn’t call it that), escaped a drunken, abusive father and shown her talent for design and retail. She’s not as interesting as The Paradise’s Denise, whom I think has more spark, but her rags to riches story entertains.

In the first episodes it was hard to watch Rose Buckingham Selfridge (Francis O’Connor) put up with her philandering husband. That hasn’t gotten easier, and I cringe when Rose gets too close to a starving artist, who later tries to come on to her teenage daughter, but Rose’s scene when she puts Harry’s lover, Eva in her place showed grace under pressure. Rose is complex and it can’t be easy to be married to Harry, not just because of his carousing but also due to his personality.

Like Downton Abbey, subplots and secondary characters like the sophisticated, conniving Lady Mae Loxley (Kathleen Kelly) who arranges Selfridge’s financial backing when his first partner pulls out, Mr. Grove the head of staff who’s wife is an invalid so he’s got a thing going with the strict head of accessories, Miss Mardle. I will criticize Mr. Selfridge for trying to spice up history for the sake of ratings. While infidelity is nothing new, it’s rampant in this drama and it comes across as a play for ratings. One philandering character is enough for an hour’s television. Give other characters other problems. (I doubt that request would be heeded.)

Henri Leclair (Grégory Fitoussi of Engrenage fame) lends savoir faire to the store as he’s a master of window design. He’s also a pillar for Selfridge, a loyal colleague and friend from their days in Chicago. He adds romance as towards the end of season 1, he turns to innocent Agnes to replace his French lover, a modern woman who always wears a tie and who works for J. Walter Thompson. I was sorry to see how Agnes got left and didn’t quite buy how stoically she let him off the hook.

The show’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It could be better, but I guess I’m on board for another season. Some critics have pointed out that Piven’s not good with nuanced emotion. Close ups should stop. They fall flat. (Downton doesn’t use them.) I think that would help. That’s probably valid, still since Selfridge puts so much of his heart into his store, his work family.