Previously on South Riding: Sarah Burton showed up and got the job of new headmistress at the school. She wasn’t in town five minutes before butting heads with Robert, a local landowner with plenty of problems. Also, the town’s trying to clean up their slums, and some hellfire and brimstone-preaching type is being blackmailed by the local prostitute.
Sarah wanders the school and finds Lydia in one of the classrooms, bent over a book. She asks Lydia what she’s doing there and Lydia explains she’s doing her homework, because it’s too loud and crowded at home. Sarah invites her to her office and hands her a new coat to replace the one she’s wearing, which is too small. She also offers to let Lydia study in her office and suggests the girl could try for Oxford someday. The teacher who was being pushed around by her class last week shows up and asks for a word, so Sarah sends Lydia away. The teacher closes the door after her and says there’s a problem with Midge.
Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The Hollands moved into 165 Eaton Place, hired a staff that included former housemaid Rose, and were joined by eccentric and annoying relatives.
Rose comes rushing down the stairs to the kitchen, bitching about the paper being late, which means there’ll be no time to iron it. She snippily asks why breakfast hasn’t gone up yet and hears it’s because Agnes’s maraschino cherry-topped graperfruit is holding up the show. Really? Come on, folks.
Upstairs, the grapefruit has been deposited in front of Agnes, and Maude offers up this gem of a line, regarding the monkey: “he’s doing it again. He’s caressing that cherry with his eyes.” I honestly don’t know whether to be grossed out by that, or to crack up entirely. Agnes is not amused, but she hands the cherry over to the monkey.
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Mildred Pierce. We rejoin our leading lady loading up pie plates with rocks in her bedroom so she can practice carrying multiple laden dishes. Smart. The lyrics to the no doubt carefully chosen song are “I’m always chasing rainbows, watching clouds passing by,” for those who are interested in such things.
Mildred’s practice is interrupted by the sound of the front door closing and the kids squealing happily. She goes downstairs and finds Bert, who explains he stopped by to pick up a few things he left in his desk. Mildred smiles and invites him to put his feet up for a while. The girls happily fill him in on their doings, and then Vita asks him if he’d like a Scotch, in that very hoity-toity proper way of hers. Bert seems surprised there’s Scotch to be had, considering it’s illegal and all, but he says he’s cool with a drink, so Mildred, her smile getting tight, goes to fetch it.
Now that they’ve conquered the 1920’s with Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s decided to move on to the ‘30’s, and they made the rather gutsy decision to do Mildred Pierce, a novel that already has a classic movie version starring Joan Crawford, who won an Academy Award for the role. HBO countered that by bringing their own Oscar winner—Kate Winslet, and stuffing the rest of the cast with other highly respected actors (including recent winner Melissa Leo, who plays one of my favorite characters). It’s early days yet, so it’s hard to tell if this version treats the source material better than the 1945 film. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Moody music plays against an art-deco background that looks a bit like stylized sunbeams. Interestingly, the supporting players are all introduced before Winslet and the title. They come at the very end of the credits, in big, bold letters.
A man with a battered suitcase makes his way into the foyer, instantly removes his hat, and looks around like he’s never seen such a place before. There’s nobody there to greet him, but Fred soon raises the alarm, bringing Starr running. Starr asks the man what he needs and the man asks where the check-in desk is. Starr instantly realizes this guy’s out of his league at the Bentink and he suggests another hotel nearby. The man protests that he doesn’t want to go to this other hotel, he wants a room at the Bentink. Starr shortly tells him to get lost, because they’re full, and the man goes to leave, but then rethinks and says he doesn’t believe Starr. Starr tries to persuade the guy to go, because he knows this man can’t afford the Bentink, but the guy gets belligerent, and right about then Charlie comes down the stairs and the guy assumes he’s the manager. Because Charlie’s an affable guy, he offers to help out, introducing himself as Charlie Hazlemere, rather than using his title. The guy finally introduces himself as Stanley Parker. Charlie asks why the guy’s so determined to stay at the Bentink and Parker says he’s heard it’s the best hotel in London.
Louisa comes in, fresh from a shopping trip, to make this little confrontation even more fun. Starr fills her in on Parker. She tells Parker he’ll be more comfortable elsewhere, but Charlie steps in and basically forces her to let the guy stay there. She tells Starr to show him to a room. Once he’s gone, she asks Charlie what he was thinking, because the staff and other guests will look down on Parker and make him uncomfortable for his whole stay. She hisses that he meant to be kind, but it was the cruelest thing he could have done. Charlie follows her into her office and easily says this is really no big deal, and she really should chill out.
Louisa emerges from the hotel, apparently on her way to a cross-channel trip. She fires off some last-minute instructions to Mary, kindly predicts she’ll come back to a huge mess, and then sets off in her new car with the Major behind the wheel. Mary and Starr wave her off, and Starr takes note of a frizzy-haired woman watching them from across the road before he and Mary go inside.
They’re not in the door two seconds before some bird-faced woman comes downstairs with her equally pinched maid to complain about the maid finding a cockroach in her room. Mary apologizes and Starr offers to give their rooms a sweep. Mary returns to the kitchens and Merriman comes in to hand Starr a letter a young woman just left for him at the back door. Starr asks him to keep an eye on things and steps out.
We can hear loud cheering from one of the upstairs rooms as Merriman comes down the steps with some empty champagne bottles. Starr asks what’s up and Merriman says it’s some Liberals celebrating their victory in a Yorkshire by-election, with Louisa in attendance. Merriman shoves off with the recycling, just in time for Fred to start losing his little terrier mind over a basket held by a well-dressed lady who’s just come in. The woman holds the basket out of reach, looking alarmed, and Starr jumps into action, shoving Fred into his little bed and greeting the lady. He snootily asks the woman if there’s an animal in the basket and she tells him there’s a cat in there. Starr says that explains it, because Fred doesn’t usually freak out that way. I think this might be a good time to offer the lady an apology for your dog’s behavior, Starr. He does not, which irks me a bit. I love my dogs to death, but you can be sure I apologize all over the place if they behave badly towards someone. The lady’s a lot nicer than I am towards Starr and tells him she’s there to meet with a Sir James, who’s up with the partying Liberals. The lady, who introduces herself as Mrs. Strickland, asks Starr to tell Sir James that she’s arrived. Apparently, Sir James is lending her his rooms. Starr asks Merriman, who’s passing by on his way back upstairs, to tell Sir James that Mrs. S has arrived.
Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa and Charlie started an affair that resulted in a daughter who was adopted by one of the grooms on Charlie’s estate. Louisa realized mothering wasn’t really in her genes and promptly returned to the hotel.
Louisa proudly shows a new guest, Sir George, to a room in the hotel. He seems inclined to be critical, but Louisa’s either really good at faking being cheerful with guests, or she’s in a really, really good mood. He asks if there’s a parlor room open, but she tells him they’re all taken, including Charlie’s, because they’re expecting a friend of his.
Dear PBS: Fire the person who was responsible for editing the original British version of Downton Abbey into the 90-minute episodes that aired here. That person is an idiot. I was annoyed with some of the scene switching that went on in earlier episodes, but tonight’s episode was a total hack job. Scenes never showed up (which made some later scenes confusing), we had at least one scene that started with a character in mid-sentence yet again, and a whole subplot got dropped. All so we could get this thing done with plenty of time for yet another annoying, overlong commercial for Antiques Roadshow. Thanks, PBS, you did a great job here. You’re on notice.
Anyway, for anyone who was confused, seek out the original version of the show. I’ll try to explain things as well as I can.
On January 26, 1905 the Cullinan diamond was discovered by Frederick Wells, the surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, South Africa. The Transvaal government bought the stone for £150,000 and presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday in 1907. As a rough diamond crystal, the Cullinan weighed more than 3,000 carats. It was eventually cut into nine large … Continue reading All That Glitters