Secrets of Selfridges

SecretsOfSelfridgesSuggested by Brad Nelson • Harry Gordon Selfridge brought about a complete revolution in the way that Londoners shopped, introducing a new American retail model which made shopping less of a practical pursuit and more of a luxurious adventure.
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2 Responses to Secrets of Selfridges

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I don’t know if Selfridges is the store that the series, The Paradise, is based upon. But it’s a similar sensibility: A “forward-looking” retailer turns shopping into an entertainment unto itself. Deana also has a tangential article here about The Paradise.

    We take shopping for granted. But there was a time when normal browsing was not allowed. Selfridge changed all that. The bizarre part of this story is that, despite his egalitarian approach to class and sex, he was highly desirous to join the British upper class. And in chasing celebrity and the Dolly Sisters (along with his reckless gambling), he eventually got to the point where he lost all connection to his store and was left to view it from afar (one time actually being arrested outside the store for vagrancy).

    Yikes. Maybe there’s a “consumerism” lesson there. I don’t know. But this is a fascinating and well-paced documentary.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The last week I’ve marathoned all but the last episode of season three of Mr. Selfridge. I had watched four or five episodes of season one about a year ago and have thus now entirely skipped over season 2.

    I had personal reasons for wanting to watch something rather bland and non-controversial…g-rated, even. And this show was the ticket and an adjunct to the mostly excellent documentary on the real-life department store mentioned above.

    I was streaming the TV series via Amazon Prime. I became a member of my sister-in-law’s “family” account. That gives me a lot more to stream. I don’t have cable…and I don’t want cable…so this expands the fare without getting too deep in the idiot box.

    There have been 3 seasons so far of “Mr. Selfridge” and I think it’s going on 4 or has already gone there. It’s a period series you can very much enjoy for the set designs, fashions, etc, although not quite as outstanding in this regard as “The Paradise” which Deana has noted in passing.

    The strength of its characters is mostly women. The men, especially including the lead character, Mr. Selfridge (played by Jeremy Piven) are bland (in his case) or just mimbos (male bimbos). The women, however, are more interesting and varied. Maybe the creator of this series is a girly-man. I don’t know. But most of the male actors are quite forgettable.

    One of the exceptions to this rule is Mr. Crabb, played by Ron Cook. Although many of the characters, including many of the women who are otherwise good characters, seem to know that they are acting in a period piece as if one eye is still winking at that fourth wall, Ron Cook, on the other hand, is entirely immersed in his character as the dutiful all-purpose right-hand man of Harry Selfridge. He’s sort of a commercial butler.

    Another actor immersed in her role is Amanda Abbington as Miss Mardle. She’s a somewhat minor character but adds a dose of realism and sympathy. You could care less if the wooden Jeremy Piven (Harry Selfridge, owner of the store) is screwed over in his next business venture but the ensemble characters become fun to get to know…when they are written well which is spotty at best.

    In season 3, the otherwise engaging actress, Polly Walker, is introduced and somewhat wasted in her primary role as Delphine Day who runs some kind of fancy place that is somewhere between an actual house of prostitution and a club. She is capable of much more aplomb and verve than the somewhat bland (there’s that word again) material she’s given to work with.

    So if you need to just sit down and vegetate a little, give this series a try. I know I’ve been damning it with faint praise, but as with any soap opera, if you put a few episodes under your belt, a story will develop. I have no idea why the whack-a-doodle crowd at IMDB rates this show so highly at 7.7. But then popular tastes perhaps aren’t what they used to be.

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