A very young Kris Holden-Ried (William Compton in The Tudors and Dyson in Lost Girl) plays the very Young Ivanhoe (1999), and Rachel Blanchard (Cher, in the television Clueless series (1996-99) based on the 1995 movie of the same name, which itself was based on Austen's novel, Emma -- whew!) plays the Lady Rowena in this made for family television version.
Holden-Ried's unbelievably smooth skin is sans the facial hair that seems his current trademark, as seen in both The Tudors and Lost Girl. He's very pretty, with collar bones, skin and cleavage on constant display. Blanchard's skin, bones and cleavage, as behooves a respectable medieval noble woman, are not displayed at all. However, despite her medieval dress of towering headdresses and flowing sleeves you cannot imagine for a second that she's a medieval Saxon descended from Alfred the Great. That face! Those teeth! are such southern California signatures. So is the way she moves. The dialog isn't much medieval either. But some of the sets are very nice -- while others look like the ticky tacky plastered walls suggestive of faux southwestern housing developments.
The cast has other recognizable names, including both Margot Kidder and Stacey Keach. None of the actors take themselves or the production seriously, but do come through as enjoying themselves, while doing the best they can with their roles. A very large plus is that very smart horses play a significant role in the plot. The other big plus is a Young Rowena who is anything but passive, possessed of a terrific throwing arm and lethal aim with daggers and other sharp-ended objects. It's a nice little swashbuckler that is perfect for passing the time while making dinner.
The other thing I watched this week was season 2 of The Hour (2012), which may be better than the first season, which itself was involving. Though there are implausibilities of various sorts in the action and set-up, these are fairly easy for the watcher to slide over. The other negative is by the last episode or so, Romola Garai, who plays the central role of Bel Rowley, began slipping into her habitualfacial grimaces that wear so badly. She had it under strict control in season 1.
To me it seems that Garai played the role of Sugar in the really fine television adaptation of the novel, The Crimson Petal and White (2009), more strongly than she plays Bel, producer of The Hour, a BBC weekly news program,which is the title of the BBC produced historical series we are watching, The Hour (see, implausibilities). In 1999 Garai also played Emma in another BBC adaptation of Austen's novel, which was spoiled because Garai could not keep her face from grimacing every second the camera was on her -- entirely unlike the deportment of Austen's eponymously titled Emma.
Dominic West (Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire 2002 -08) is always a joy to watch (though well, maybe not as Oliver Cromwell in the Devil's Whore (2008) -- how could such a time and characters come through as so boring?). His character is Hector Madden, the drinks-too-much-married-man-too-much-about-town, host of The Hour. His wife, Marnie, is played by Oona Castilla Chaplin, who comes out as a person instead of a spoiled rich daddy's girl cliche in this season. She's fascinating to look at -- so different from Garai. All of the regulars are good, particularly Ben Whishaw, as ambitious journalist Freddie Lyon. I'm not the only one to say that about Whishaw and his role. My favorite character is Anna Chancelor as Lix Storm, journalist and head of the foreign desk of The Hour.
Dominic West (Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire 2002 -08) is always a joy to watch (though well, maybe not as Oliver Cromwell in the Devil's Whore (2008) -- how could such a time and characters come through as so boring?). He plays Hector Madden, the drinks-too-much-married-man-too-much-about-town, host of The Hour. His wife, Marnie, is played by Oona Castilla Chaplin, who comes out as a person rather than 50's cliche of daddy's spoiled rich girl in this season. She's fascinating to look at -- so different from Garai. All of the regulars are good, particularly Ben Whishaw, as ambitious journalist Freddie Lyon. I'm not the only one to say that about Whishaw and his role. My favorite character is Anna Chancelor as Lix Storm, journalist and head of the foreign desk of The Hour.
In this season everybody has a concealment / secret come out to someone, even if not to the public via the news media -- except Bel's. Who is Bel really? We learn backstories of principal characters. The older characters' pasts and interaction, meaning those older than Bel or Freddie -- reach back into shared WWII experience. Would this be the case in a U.S. produced television series made about news television set in the 1950's? Once again the U.S. viewer sees -- or should -- of how deep the trauma of that war still goes in the British psyche.
In most ways The Hour feels more authentically the nineteen fifties than Mad Men did when it began. There are a few wrong touches, mostly with women's shoes and lingerie, but the music is bang on, and they use it very well -- and again, better than Mad Men does (contemporary popular music is something that Call the Midwife uses very well too).
The Hour is a series perfect for cold, dark, wintery mix precipitating winter evenings, which is what both my days and nights have been lately.