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10 Reasons Why You Should Give ITV/PBS's Mr. Selfridge Another Try

Don't let Downton Abbey hog the Edwardian period drama spotlight!

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1. The Women

Spy Hollywood / Via spyhollywood.com

Harry Gordon Selfridge (portrayed by Jeremy Piven) is an intriguing character, but the women in his life--Lady Mae Loxley (Katherine Kelly), Ellen Love (Zoë Tapper), Rose Selfridge (Frances O'Connor), and Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), among others--steal the spotlight.

2. The Store

Empty Box / Via emptybox.co.uk

Sure, most of the action is confined to the ground floor of Selfridges, but from inter-department rivalries, to flirtations between deliveries, to an impromptu visit from King Edward, you've got to give Mr. Selfridge credit for packing so much drama into such a small space.

3. Harry

Anglotopia / Via anglotopia.net

Okay, I lied--Harry is interesting. By the middle of the first season, I excitedly tweeted a friend: "Harry is an Edwardian Don Draper!". Tortured childhood with a deadbeat father? Check. Compulsive infidelity to fill a hole in his psyche? Check. Amazing business sense? Check. Grand gestures and great pep talks? Check. Taking an ambitious young woman under his wing during a time when women were marginalized in the workforce? Check. The comparison sounds about right to me.

4. Agnes Towler

PBS / Via pbs.org

Agnes is the "Peggy Olsen" of Mr. Selfridge, if Peggy had a charming London accent and a way with hats. Over the course of season 1, Agnes grows from a London girl with vague ambitions of rising in a department store to a self-assured woman with a flair for window design. Best yet, her romantic entanglements are merely incidental to her growth--she fearlessly goes after what she wants (and, ahem, whom she wants) and refuses to allow the men in her life to shape her decisions.

5. The Edwardian Era

PBS/Wisconsin Public Television / Via wptschedule.org

So Mr. Selfridge name drops famous personalities of the Edwardian era in nearly every episode (above: Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova in episode 4); nevertheless, that draws the show--and viewers--directly into the era. The show doesn't ever vaguely reach for the setting, or use major events as a marker of the passage of time (I'm looking at you season 2 of Downton Abbey).

6. Class, or Lack Of It

Vision TV / Via visiontv.ca

Almost every character is bound--or estranged--by their outsider status, and their attempts to either escape or reinvent their past. Class plays a role for that escape or reinvention, not as a way to uphold the status quo. This makes Mr. Selfridge the least like Downton Abbey in the wake of every 20th century-set period drama being compared to that enormously successful program.

7. Sex

The Culture Concept / Via thecultureconcept.com

Period dramas are usually sedate, mannered, and rather chaste, and a lot of people turn to them for that. Mr. Selfridge nonchalantly dispels the notion that the past was full of prim, buttoned-up, and easily shocked people. Especially in the faster, more cosmopolitan London social circles.

8. The Fashion

The Telegraph / Via telegraph.co.uk

Mr. Selfridge gives you everything you want in an Edwardian period drama: the decolletage, the waistcoats, the big Merry Widow hats, the silks, the jewelry...just sumptuousness. And the clothes worn by the Selfridges staff aren't too shabby themselves. Top Fashionista: Lady Mae Loxley.

10. Family

Vision TV / Via visiontv.ca

Family is the heartbeat of Mr. Selfridge--the store family, Harry's family, Agnes and her brother George, Mr Grove & Miss Mardle, etc. Over the course of season 1, each character experiences the harsh realities of what it means to be a family and the definition of family itself (it isn't necessarily tied by blood). By the last episode, you realize that Mr. Selfridge deftly combines the typical markers of a period drama (fashion, drama, sumptuous settings) with deeper themes that resonate with modern viewers!

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