’Mr. Selfridge’ Open Again for Business March 30 on PBS
Season 2 of this lush British series opens in the spring of 1914 as dreamer-entrepreneur Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the successful department store that bears his name. Many of the store's trusted employees have moved up in the store's hierarchy, notably Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), who returns from her stint in Paris to become the Head of Displays. There, she quickly locks horns with Mr. Thackeray, (Cal Macaninch), the new Head of Fashion, who is aghast at her lack of proper art-school credentials. Poor Miss Towler is quickly overwhelmed with all the work, but gamely struggles on.
Despite the store's success, Harry himself has issues to sort out, namely to win back his wife, Rose, (Frances O'Connor) and reunite his family. Rose, who has returned from a stint in America to celebrate with Harry, is quite taken with her new friend, Delphine Day (Polly Walker), a risqué writer and owner of a racy nightclub.
Also new to the cast is the evil Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle), whose vicious scheming is not above verbal and physical abuse of his wife, Lady Mae.
Despite all these intricate sub-plots weaving in and out, the real narrative of Season 2 promises to be World War I and the dramatic changes and challenges it will bring to Harry, his family, employees and store, not to mention British society itself. Already in the first two episodes, change is afoot. Delphine's reading at Selfridge's contains vivid details of her amorous trysts much to the shock of the older staff and to the delight of the ladies. Kitty Hawkins (Amy Beth Hayes) does a mean sexy tango at the employees' party and unionization attracts even the well-compensated workers at Selfridge.
It's easy to compare "Mr. Selfridge" to PBS's other Masterpiece hit, "Downton Abbey" and while they can easily go head-to-head in opulent set designs and costumes, and complicated plots, "Mr. Selfridge" lacks the witty, sharp-edged dialogue of "Downton," most evident in the Dowager Countess of Grantham's (Maggie Smith) one-line zingers.
Still, "Mr. Selfridge" Season 2 promises to offer viewers an entertaining glimpse into the world of seductive personalized department store shopping that for most of us is receding further and further into the past, superseded by on-line sites and bargain basement deals.
For those viewers who prefer to binge on back-to-back episodes, Season 2 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray April 29th.
"Mr. Selfridge" airs Sunday, March 30, 2014 on PBS