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?
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
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III - it tries hard to be funny but doesn't raise a solitary guffaw
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 'He was always smiling': Lee Rigby named as Woolwich victim
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.