costume drama

Playing Dress Up: The Story of the Costume Drama Lacks Pizzazz

If you are a fan of British TV costume dramas, don’t line up for the release of Story of the Costume Drama, on DVD July 31, 2012.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? The set includes backstage interviews with stars, directors, producers and others involved in producing Brideshead Revisited; I, Claudius; Upstairs, Downstairs; Pride and Prejudice; The Jewel in the Crown; Poldark; Doctor Zhivago and other TV historic sagas. But there’s a much better deal to be had.

According to Acorn Media, the producers of the DVD, PBS aired the first episode of The Story of Costume Drama rather recently, in the spring of 2012. However, I’ve been unable to verify that anything but the first episode was ever scheduled on an American TV station. As for BBC, I still don’t know when or if they actually aired this series of five shows.

Frankly, as much as I love costume dramas, I found this set  boring. And for $39.99, I would certainly want more than boring. But all is not lost, costume drama fans. Another, more expensive but better value, DVD set is being released the same day. Read on for details…

Ok, so The Story of the Costume Drama features great dramas, fantastic stars (Colin Firth in a wet shirt, be still my beating heart), behind-the-scenes secrets — what did I not like? The whole thing comes at you in short takes that made me think of the promos you see for new TV shows. Repetition, repetition, repetition.  If this was supposed to be a documentary, they sorely  needed Ken Burns to create it.  Besides being chopped into little bits, the information kept getting repeated from segment to segment.

Just so you know, the first episode has to do with the evolution of the idea of epic costume dramas on TV, starting with Robin Hood in 1955 to the real smash — Upstairs, Downstairs. And the tradition continues today.  Other episodes focus on the actors; the love affairs on and off screen; the settings; and the popularity of war-time pictures.

If I’m going to spend money on a DVD set, I’d spring for Costume Drama Classic Collection
for $99.99 ($89.99 on Amazon), a 15-disc collection that includes Upstairs, Downstairs Series 1, Lost Empires (Starring Colin Firth and Laurence Olivier), Lillie, and Doctor Zhivago, as well as The Story of the Costume Drama.  Sounds like a much better deal. I kinda wish they’d included I Claudius or Fannie Hill instead of Lillie, but c’est la vie. (Lillie, by the way is Lillie Langtree — famous as an actress but also as the lover of a multitude of famous men, including the King.)

Just know that if you try to save money by getting the $49.99 set, you will not see any whole dramas — just short scenes and many interviews.

Acorn, the U.S. media company that specializes in British TV, sent me a copy of the two-disc, five-episode set for review.  Obviously, my opinions are my own.



3 responses to “Playing Dress Up: The Story of the Costume Drama Lacks Pizzazz”

  1. […] Then you might be tempted to buy the $39.95 DVD set called The Story of The Costume Drama. Warning. There’s something much better. Read all about it in my latest column at Reel Life with Jane. […]

  2. […] not Rick Steves or Andrew Bourdain! I had the same complaint over at Reel Life With Jane about The Story of Costume Drama, which also came from Acorn Media […]

  3. […] Playing Dress Up: The Story of the Costume Drama Lacks Pizzazz […]

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