Mr. Selfridge is an extraordinary new drama on ITV that details how our high street is shaped today. A story set in 1908, Mr Selfridge’s blasé no nonsense approach to retail is considered risky for the era. The historical context of the programme is well researched and set accordingly to the real events.
Largely a conservative period, the early 20th century marked the end of the First World War and the start of a modern revolution. Women’s rights were changing, people started to spend money as the rations ended and a baby boom after the war lifted everyone’s spirits.
This time of change is highlighted in the drama, with the suffragettes protesting and the middle and upper class merging, Mr Selfridge capitalises in the time of change in Britain, bringing a new air of optimism to the post war period by opening a new, luxurious, affordable store called Selfridges in the heart of London on Oxford Street.
The realistic and sensitive nature of Mr Selfridge, played by Jeremy Piven (also starred in Smokin ‘Aces and Cars as Harry) is portrayed through story lines that cross classes. It shows the difference between fame and money in today’s society.
Harry Selfridge was all for the money, but we see his values change as his monetary actions have detrimental effects to the lives of others. The division between the poor and the rich is an aspect of the century that is touched on, it shows how money and status made and defined the characters. Most of the series was shot in a studio in Neasden, London, which also hosts the set for popular Channel 4 series ‘Peep Show’. The setting is typical of a 20th Century society, with the classic T Ford model cars and exquisite costumes, it enhances the shows production.
Mr. Selfridge’s personal life goes along with the business, and it shows the difficulty of being a man of power, as well as a father and an idol. The importance of status in the era is reflected through the storylines, that with status comes power and the opposite is seen through the employees of Selfridges.
Aisling Loftus (known most for starring in the 2011 adaptation of ‘The Borrowers’) plays a hard done for girl, Agnes Towler, as an employee of Selfridges. She has an alcoholic father is determined to fend for herself. The storyline is strong and shows how a strong mind can lead to great things. She becomes a valued member of staff, despite her poor background. Her character is inspiring to the audience and you feel proud when her work pays off.
The storylines are touching and realistic, making the development of Selfridges an interesting story for the people that shop there today, that know very little about the beginnings of the store.
“Something for everybody” is a concept Mr. Selfridge was set on and we also see the introduction of Mr. Woolworth, thought to be Selfridge’s competition. It is an interesting show, especially since its set on real history and has relevance to our high street today.
It has been confirmed that Mr Selfridge will return to the screen with a second series in 2014. Tune in to ITV at 9pm on Sunday 10th March for the next episode. Click here to catch up on all the latest episodes.
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