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Archive for June 12th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

This BBC landmark, based on the books by John Galsworthy, debuted in 1967 on BBC2, then a fledgling network, and was repeated, almost immediately, on BBC1, to increased ratings and continued acclaim, despite the shift to color. The series also found success as an import, presaging such works as Upstairs, Downstairs and Downtown Abbey. This was not just a massive commercial and critical hit, it cemented the BBC, particularly in the minds of US audiences, as the place for quality “highbrow” adaptations. That the series mostly still works is testament to the energy and conviction with which it was made. The parts that do not work, unfortunately, mar it enough to bear consideration.

Before continuing, the series has one of the most argued scenes in the annals of television, and that is the family scion Soames’s rape of his wife Irene after she refuses her husband’s advances for years on end, while carrying on an affair with another man. This rape, which is brutal, forms the backbone of much of the series moving forward, yet-realistically, given the times in which the story is set-Soames is never brought to justice. Instead, and somewhat unsettlingly, Soames becomes a figure of fun, and a curmudgeon the audience can identify with. It is difficult to describe how viewing this makes one feel since everyone will have different readings of the appropriateness of redeeming rapists. Yet, it is a cloud that hangs over the series. It does not, however, diminish the fine acting or storytelling otherwise found in this landmark work.

The series, of course, is about the changing circumstances of the Forsyte clan, and how the generations view one another. It is about the world around them becoming industrialized and how the end of the old ways of aristocracy and the new ways of pure capitalism intersect. It is, of course, also largely a soap opera, with plenty of affairs, failed romances, deaths and mysteries. Yet, it contains some humor, enough to ease what could become dreary proceedings. Much of this, in later episodes, is found with Soames, who seems to have both adapted well to a world of automobiles and telephones but still can’t grasp or manage blowing up a balloon. (more…)

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