Anglomaniacs can get a "Downton Abbey" downtime miniseries fix with the HBO/BBC five-parter "Parade’s End," adapted by Academy Award-winning Sir Tom Stoppard from Ford Maddox Ford’s four novels, which were penned in the 1920s.
Primarily set in Yorkshire over a ten-year period, chin-challenged Benedict Cumberbatch as brainiac Christopher Tietjens grapples with the changing aristocracy before and during World War One. He marries, and is cuckolded by, sexual sylph Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), who alternately loves and loathes his brilliance and anal retentive nature.
Christopher is drawn to, but abstains from, sassy suffragette Valentine (platinum-coiffed Adelaide Clemens), as various friends and relatives move in and around their dalliances. A solid supporting cast includes Rupert Everett, Janet McTeer, Miranda Richardson, and a hilarious Rufus Sewell as Reverend Duchemin, who talks about his organ, among other scandalous references.
The tableaux, shot in scenic Belgium, throb in high definition, but the storyline feels thin, making it hard to care about a privileged Edwardian aristocrat and his self-serving (and slutty) wife, and a son that may or may not be his (who’s sent to live with his aunt in any case).
Part One establishes the characters, and Two unfolds at a new address. Part Three follows Christopher recovering from shell shock, and revisits his family manse at Groby. Four goes to France, and Five is at the front as well as at home. A bonus NPR interview between Stoppard and Elvis Mitchell is included as well. Then the parade ends, but feels as if it’s barely begun.