For those who are interested, the Globe has a great column about WGBH’s acquisition of WCRB. They’re cutting the Friday BSO broadcast from Symphony Hall, and they’re not planning on improving the ‘CRB signal, but there is at least an all-classical station in the Greater Boston area. Read the article if you care about the classical music situation on the radio.
On the television side of the ‘GBH house, Cranford‘s going to making a return appearance on Masterpiece, in anticipation of Return to Cranford. I liked Cranford, and I’m sure I’ll like Return to Cranford. That’s because I’m the target audience for Masterpiece: former English major who doesn’t have the time to read everything, but who will gladly sit through a six-hour production of some random books by Mrs. Gaskell.
Masterpiece, of course, wasn’t always called that: it was “Masterpiece Theatre” and “Mystery!”; Masterpiece Theatre was hosted by men who were on sets that almost looked like real places, narrating words that they could have actually written, and Mystery! was hosted by Diana Rigg and had that wonderful opening credit sequence illustrated by Edward Gorey. These were the kinds of programs that easily conned people like me into thinking that we were part of a cultural elite.
I don’t like how Masterpiece has now become Masterpiece Classic, Contemporary, and Mystery, hosted in front of a weird colored screen, by actors who narrate a bland introduction that adds nothing to my enjoyment of the program. I know that part of this is to attract a younger, broader audience, but I don’t know that Laura Linney is going to be attracting anyone Russell Baker didn’t.
I still like the vast majority of the actual content, though. A month ago, they had on a great two-part series called Collision, which starred the wonderful Douglas Henshall, from Primeval. It was the story of a police investigator who looks into the causes of a multi-car pileup; one of the cars in the accident is owned by a character played by Paul McGann, who was the Eighth Doctor. He plays a really rich dude who falls in love with a young woman who works at a highway rest stop restaurant. Unfortunately, he’s married, and she’s engaged, but he convinces her to run away with him. (She does a lot of hemming and hawing before she agrees; meanwhile, I’m yelling at the television — “Listen, chick, you’ve got the only Doctor besides numbers Five and Nine who could remotely be called sexy — much as they keep trying to push number Ten (also the Masterpiece Contemporary host) as irresistible — so for the love of all that is good, just run off to Hamburg with this guy.” I believe I also used my mother’s favorite phrase, “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one,” a philosophy that I’ve never had the opportunity to find the truth in.)
This wouldn’t be so bad, except it was a somewhat similar situation to that in Bleak House between Esther and John Jarndyce. Esther pines away over some dude when she’s got this hot (well, hot to me, but he also appeared in my husband’s favorite movie and he’s really from Perthshire, so what’s not to love?), older rich guy interested in her. In reality, wouldn’t most of us take the hot older guy who’s also rich versus some random guy who’s gone to India for years because he has some mistaken notions about helping the less fortunate?
Masterpiece, please, you don’t need to do market research. No one who watches Gossip Girl will suddenly see the error of their TV-watching ways because Alan Cumming hosts the Mystery portion of your show, which doesn’t even have the decency to show Edward Gorey’s party guests in their full glory. (Also, let’s keep the fact that I watch Gossip Girl religiously out of this equation for the minute.) I am your demographic, and this is what I want: some chick to live happily ever after with an adorable older rich guy who will cater to her every whim. Is that too much to ask?