Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Masterpiece Theatre: Return to Cranford

This year's season of Masterpiece Classic begins by taking us back. Back to a charming town in Cheshire. Back to a world where rules of decorum have been in place for centuries. Back to a place where love, pain, and happiness blend together. Back to friends that are both well-loved and well-known. Back to Cranford.

This sequel to the BBC's original production begins one year after the end of the first series. Cranford continues to face the major change that is barreling towards it in the form of the railway. Most of the town's residents continue to feel that the railway will only bring destruction. But others recognize that Cranford's very survival might depend on allowing this great change into their midst.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this sequel, and my feelings are still rather mixed on it. On the one hand, the production qualities are just as good as the first one. The scenery is just as stunning, the writing just as lovely, the acting just as luminous. But at times, it was also somewhat dissappointing. Many faces that we loved are no longer in Cranford (Dr. Harrison, Sophy, Caroline Tomkinson, Jessie Brown, Maj. Gordon etc.) and many of the original story lines are hinted at but never resoled (Did Mrs. Rose marry the older doctor? Why did Ms. Matty close her tea shop? What happened between Mary and the Irish doctor?).

It was actually as if you had left your hometown for a whole year. You come back and neither you nor it is the same as when you had left. As I watched, I thought of a line uttered by Margaret Hale in the 2004 adaptation of Gaskell's North and South: "...happy as we were, we can never go back." For all the love we have for the place, it will never remain the same.

And yet, isn't that exactly what the citizens of Cranford are experiencing? Their way of life is changing daily, and they can either sit at home alone and hide from it, or they can march out together and face it head on. It is the latter that the ladies of Cranford choose to do. For all the hurt and heartache that this change brings, it also brings new opportunities.

Yes, there were points to this sequel that I didn't like. It wasn't quite as funny as the first (there was no lace at stake). Some loose ends were never tied up (was Harry able to get the money owed him by Lord Septimus?). And I didn't like the fact that Mary is allowed to become a writer only by choosing to remain single, especially when she is modled after Gaskell who wrote in the evenings after her children were in bed. But there were also many lovely moments that warmed my heart and made me smile. It's not as good as the original, and it's a little uneven in places, but it is still worth seeing. By the end, I was glad that I chose to return to Cranford.

Up Next: The American premier of a brand new adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma.

1 comment:

Lepidoptera said...

I agree with so many things that you wrote in your review of "Return to Cranford". There were many unanswered questions and characters that I missed too. All in all though it was enjoyable. I laughed at the birdcage scene for sure; it reminded me of Bessy's pajamas. Gaskell has an obvious sense of humor.