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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Worth Watching: Edwardian Country House

There being a dearth of anything else worth posting about this week - I'm sure you guys are all up to date on the latest political gaffes and foreign affairs - I'm going to share with you an excellent documentary I watched several years ago and am now working though again: The Edwardian Country House, filmed in the fall of 2001 by Britain's Channel 4, and subsequently broadcast there and in the U.S. on PBS, which retitled it as Manor House. I'm enjoying it just as much this time around as I did the first time I saw it; it really is very well done, and if you haven't seen it yourself, do give it a try.

All six episodes are viewable on YouTube. For more on the series, including exit interviews with the participants, check out the PBS website for the show. Also, if you're planning a visit to Scotland and would like to rent the exquisitely lovely Manderston House for an overnight stay with yourself and up to 18 of your closest friends, check out the house's website.

There were several of these period-recreation shows done in this country and in Britain in the last decade, and I've seen most of them, and enjoyed them all. Apart from the historical and artistic interest, these types of shows are fascinating for the psychological insights they provide: how much of our attitudes and behaviors are a product of living in one time or another? And it's amusing, too, to see which participants can make the change back to another time, and which ones just can't let go of the 21st century - which produces predictable conflicts with the others.

I won't say anything more about this series so as not to prejudice you - except that I think it's important to keep in mind that all the participants, upstairs and down, are constrained by following a well-marked "script" of how to behave with one another. But of course your realize that real life, in any period including our own, is infinitely variable, and does not always follow the script we think it should! But watch it and see what you think. If you like Downton Abbey, you'll get a kick out of this. Enjoy.

Bonus: The following documentary produced by PBS in early 2012 isn't nearly so good - it follows the dishonest modern style of using ominous music and a certain intonation of the narrator's voice to project a feeling of creepiness, fear, and sinister doings, when they are talking about clearly ordinary things. Still, beginning at the 6:00 mark, it has a short interview with the current owner of Manderston, Lord Palmer, his Texas-born wife, and their butler, along with some new shots of the interior and exterior.


Stan said...

I saw the 2012 documentary produced by PBS a little while ago. I've also seen parts of Manor House too. I thought it was interesting on how it showed how these folks lived and inter-married. "Affairs" were tolerated and I wonder if same sex "affairs" occurred under these same roofs too. I think they had to have.

Harper's Keeper said...

Cool; kind of like Downton Abbey as a reality show. Anything narrated by Derek Jacoby is worth watching

Russ Manley said...

Glad you like, guys.

Stan - there was indeed a homo subculture in Britain at that time - as there has been everywhere, at all times - but teh gayz had to be ultra-discreet and cautious about it. Remember what happened to Oscar Wilde. The straight boys, though, had things all worked out to their advantage - fucking another man's wife was quite all right, don't you know, but not sucking another man's dick.

If you're interested in gay history in Britain, see the http://rictornorton.co.uk/ website, which has lots and lots of details from earlier periods. None of which ever made it into the history books, of course.

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