Retail: TV shows where you know what's in store
After The Paradise, TV drama is once more running for the tills with Mr Selfridge. Are department stores really the new Downton?
Thursday 03 January 2013
This Sunday at 9pm, television screens are to be graced with ITV's latest costume drama offering, Mr Selfridge, a historical homage to the man behind one of London's most dynamic shops.
Not exactly politely following on from the BBC's very own department-store drama The Paradise, it seems that producers have decided to replace post-Edwardian mansions with turn-of-the-century store cupboards.
Turns out we owe it all to Downton Abbey. "Period dramas are a form that five years ago people thought were utterly dead," says cultural historian and critic Matthew Sweet. "The really extraordinary thing is that any of these shows exist at all."
"But the problem with the country home is you've only got the aristocracy and the servants. Whereas Downton is about the deluded idea that we were all happier when we knew our place, the department store emerges as a point in time when these class barriers were breaking down. Department stores are more middle class. They're about more of us."
Lindy Woodhead has spent more than 25 years working in fashion and retail. She is author of the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge, which the new programme, starring Jeremy Piven as Henry Selfridge, is based on.
"Retail is one of our largest employers," she points out. "To see the history of shopping unfurl, with the backdrop of the character of Henry Selfridge, is really quite exciting."
For Tara Draper-Stumm, co-author of London Shops: The World's Emporium, the idea of a drama set in a department store brings together the ideals of our consumer-based society. She points out that a show "about shop girls in Harrods would probably also go down well". "There's a love of a bygone age," she explains, "where people would wait on you."
It may be of little comfort to the beleaguered survivors of the January sales, but after a few minutes of watching Mr Selfridge it's bitterly clear that shopping isn't what it was.
Arts & Ents blogs
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 1 Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 2 Hells of residence: Inside Macedonia's horrifying student accommodation - where the walls are green and the food is black
- 3 Boy George: Bad karma
- 4 First Kiss video: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 5 Rampaging elephant smashes up house but then 'saves crying baby trapped under debris'