With a few months to wait before Downton Abbey returns to grace our screens for a second series we (meaning myself and like-minded members of the great British public) are in desperate need of a period pick-me-up. Que South Riding – BBC1’s latest Sunday night drama, adapted from the original book by Winifred Holtby it is a story of the goings on in a small Yorkshire town in the 1930s. Already I’m thinking beautiful filming locations, a pretty decent cast and the cherry on top – glorious vintage costumes. Maybe it’s just me however, but I get the impression that the three part series hasn’t been very widely advertised. I was only alerted to the existence of the series when I spotted Anna Maxwell Martin (who plays the lead – a feisty feminist of a headteacher) on the cover of Saturday’s Playlist – The Times’ film and tv guide. If you can get your hands on it then I really recommend reading the full double page spread on pages 8-9 which give a better insight into the shows characters and how they compare to past period dramas. The other only example of publicity I have seen is a short BBC advert which they showed last night on BBC1 at about 9ish. Apart from that – nothing.
I know that Downton had a ridiculously huge budget, but I’m sure that billboard adverts aren’t that expensive when you’re the BBC? It may only be a three parter but at least make an effort to entice people to watch it! The same thing happened with the three-part series of Upstairs Downstairs that aired on Boxing Day and the two consecutive days. It was a real blink-and-you-miss-it series which was disappointing as that too beheld lavish costumes, excellent locations and, yet again, a real treat of a cast. If you want to re-live of the elegance of such a production then have a read and look at the photos in my post Costume Case Study: Upstairs Downstairs. It seems that the BBC keep shoving in these mini-series to let us know that they are still the holders of the Period Drama crown of glory – so when are they going to launch into a nice long series which we can all get our teeth into instead of these ‘taster’ shows? Come one BBC, you are the cooperation who gave us Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Can anyone forget? So why these short series? I really hope that the BBC realise that WE WANT MORE! South Riding promises a perfect Sunday night of relaxation and trustworthy cast – Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House), David Morrissey (Sense and Sensibility, State of Play), Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) and Peter Firth (Spooks). I mean, Penelope Wilton made it into Downton Abbey and South Riding! Well played Penelope.
South Riding is on BBC1, today (Sunday) at 9pm.
A BBC video clip of the costumes for South Riding – this is really worth watching!
All images via Radio Times