BBC One, PBS Distribution’s Presentation Of ‘The Long Song’ Is A Deeply Moving Historical Fiction

Courtesy: BBC One/PBS Distribution/NBC Universal International

It’s better to be late than never.  Everyone knows that old adage.  It is an adage that applies well for PBS Distribution’s DVD release of BBC One’s 2018 adaptation of author Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song.  PBS Distribution brought the drama to American audiences in February as part of PBS’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of its program, Masterpiece.  The nearly three-hour mini-series (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact) is a powerful and memorable work that while maybe not at the level of the cinematic adaptation of author Alex Haley’s novel Roots, it is sill moving, powerful and memorable.  That is proven in part through the historical fiction’s story.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s general look (the backdrop and costuming) rounds out the program’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the mini-series’ presentation.  All things considered, they make The Long Song a presentation that is well worth watching at least once.

BBC One’s adaptation of author Anrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song is a powerful story that audiences with any interest in the history of slavery (and especially Great Britain’s role in the slave trade) will find worth watching. That is due in part to its central story.  The central story is a historical fiction that is based on the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831-32.  The story in fact opens in the waning days of slavery in Jamaica, which was controlled by the British government.  The opening story in its three-episode run in fact takes place as the Great Slave Revolt essentially begins.  The difference here is that the slaves burned down portions of the region’s sugarcane fields right at Christmas as a group of British aristocrats meet at the Amity plantation.  In reality, the sugarcane fields were not burned, but certain estates in Jamaica.  That aside, the story here is still close enough to reality that viewers can forgive the fiction. 

The related story of the tension between the plantation workers and overseer Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden – War & Peace, Small Axe, Fighting With My Family) adds to the overall story’s presentation.  It is so telling because what happens with Robert’s development is in reality, its own commentary on how so much of the white world is even today.  Even people who claim they are not racist still do have some racist tendencies because it has been ingrained into them by another generation.  It is a topic that the world really needs to address.  On a similar note, that moment when James (Ansu Kabia – Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Hobbs & Shaw, Murder on the Orient Express) tells Robert that he and his fellow emancipated friends refused to pay higher rent for their home and to work longer hours adds to the story involving Robert’s clearly deep-rooted racist tendencies.  This is a matter that will resonate with audiences even today, not just African-Americans.  Average workers everywhere are dealing with the issue today, of increases in the cost of living versus stagnant wages.  It makes this part of the overall story that much more engaging because it shows how far back this issue has reached in human history.

On yet another note, the love triangle between Roger, July (Tamara Lawrance – The Gurney, Kindred, On Chesil Beach), and Caroline (Hayley Atwell – Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man) adds   yet another layer of engagement and entertainment.  The love triangle between the trio is like something out of a trashy romance novel, so it is certain to bring in plenty of female audiences.  At the same time, July getting caught up in-between Robert and her fellow freedmen adds to the drama, and that will engage and entertain men and women alike.  Considering this story line and the other two noted here, it is clear that there is a lot going on over the course of The Long Song’s story.  All of the noted story elements go a long way toward making the story fully engaging and entertaining.  Considering how much is going on in the story, it is all well-balanced.  To that end, the story featured in The Long Song forms a strong foundation for the mini-series’ presentation.  The cast’s work in front of the camera builds on that foundation, making the presentational the better.

The work of The Long Song’s cast is so important to discuss because it is so impressive.  Atwell really steals the show here.  She makes it so easy to hate Caroline.  The way that Caroline treats July throughout the story and the way that she competes with her over Robert makes her that stereotypical spoiled bratty aristocrat.  It makes her a great antagonist.  Not to give away too much, but her behavior late in the second episode in regards to Emily (July’s infant daughter) is just plain despicable.  It makes her performance all the richer.  What’s more, considering her extensive time in the Marvel universe (and her overall resume), taking on the villainous role makes for an interesting turn.  She handled it expertly and makes for a clear example of why the cast’s work is so important.

Kabia’s performance is one of the surprise standouts in this story.  While some might consider his role supporting, he comes across more as a lead actor.  That is because of the lead that he takes among the plantation workers.  The noted confrontation that James has with Robert is just one way in which Kabia shows his chops.  What he does is what so many viewers wish they could do to their bosses. It is such a believable moment.  Throughout the story, his leadership of the plantation workers shows him as such a respected figure.  At the same time, the contrast of his presence to that of July really helps to build the tension.  Between his performance here and that in Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Kabia continues to show his talent.  Considering that, it will hopefully not be long before he gains his own even bigger role that finally really breaks him through.

Lawrance’s performance is just as notable as that of Atwell and Kabia.  There were plenty of points at which she easily could have chewed the scenery so to speak, considering all of the drama in the story.  Yet, her performance from beginning to end, Lawrance interprets each scene expertly in her own right.  Case in point is the moment when Caroline tells July that Robert is going to marry her.  The emotion that she brings out here is so moving and not too emotional.  That fateful moment in which the plantation workers refuse to work on Christmas and Robert storms off, nearly leaving her behind is another key example of Lawrance’s talents.  The way she stands there, trying to make sense of the situation showed July as someone who was just so torn.  And her vulnerability as she had to get Robert to stop the carriage added even more to the moment.  On a more subtle note, the way in which Lawrance handles July’s reaction to Caroline imagining kidnapping Emily is another example of Lawrance’s talent.  Rather than just go all out, freaking out, Lawrance instead brings out the mother in July, making her concern for her daughter evident.  It is yet another powerful presentation.

Lawrance’s performance is just one more that makes clear, the importance of the cast’s work.  That of Lowden is yet another prime example of that importance.  At first Robert comes in as this dashing, almost prince charming type figure.  However, his reaction at the very sight of a cockroach shows a certain weakness.  It is funny.  Also, it is a wonderful depiction of someone who clearly spent his upbringing being very coddled.  Lowden’s portrayal of Robert in this case does so much to really bring out that aristocratic side of Robert.  As the story progresses, Lowden’s display of Robert’s gradual breakdown does just as much to keep viewers engaged.  It makes viewers want to see to what point Robert will go.  What’s more, it slowly reveals Robert’s innate racist tendencies that he otherwise wants to deny and hide.  Audiences will find themselves wanting to watch his performance throughout just as much as the other noted cast’s work.  When all of that work is considered collectively, that whole makes clear the importance of the cast’s work.  When that work is considered along with the richness of the overall story, the two elements collectively make for so much engagement and entertainment.  They are just a portion of what makes The Long Song so enthralling.  The story’s general look rounds out its most important elements.

The Long Song’s look is important because it also plays into the presentation’s overall appeal and believability.  Audiences will find interesting that while it takes place in Jamaica, its visual presentation was captured in the Dominican Republic.  If audiences did not know that, they would just as easily believe their eyes.  The rich greens of the sugarcane fields and the look of the Amity House are so enveloping.  Even the look of the Brits and plantation workers is proper for the era.  From Caroline’s and July’s dresses to the plantation workers’ far simpler apparel, the overall look of the story proves correct.  That attempt to make the story believable through its look paid off just as much as the work that that cast and show’s heads put in.  All things considered, the overall presentation that is The Long Song proves a powerful story that deserves seeing at least once if not more.

BBC One’s presentation of The Long Song is a presentation that history buffs and drama fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its story.  While the story is a historical fiction, it does have some reality incorporated into its whole.  That and the drama that is added to the story makes the story even more engaging.  The work of the cast in interpreting the scripts adds to the overall appeal.  The general look of the program’s presentation does its own share to make the whole appealing, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way in making this presentation appealing.  All things considered, they make the whole a powerful, memorable work that history and drama fans alike will find well worth watching at least once.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from BBC One is available online at:




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‘Miss Scarlet & The Duke’ Is Mostly Succesful In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: A+E Networks International/PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

Fans of the British crime drama Miss Scarlet and the Duke received some positive news this week.  The series will return for a second season.  The announcement came Monday through an email newsletter from WGBH and PBS.  Season Two’s premiere date was not announced, as the global COVID-19 pandemic forced stoppage of Season Two’s filming early this year.  That means filming will have to resume first if it has not already restarted.  While audiences await the premiere of Season Two, they can watch the series’ debut season on DVD thanks to PBS Distribution and A+E Networks International.  Released Feb. 16, the lead season of the Victorian-era crime drama is an interesting presentation.  That is due in part to its writing, which will be discussed shortly.  While the writing makes for its own share of interest, the acting deserves its own share of attention, too.  It will be discussed a little later.  For all that the writing and acting do for this series, they are just a portion of what audiences will appreciate about this season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke.  The season’s look fits relatively well with the time, too.  Taking into account that aesthetic element along with the writing and acting, the whole of the elements makes the first season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke worth watching at least once.

Miss Scarlet & The Duke is a presentation that will appeal to most crime drama fans in its debut season.  That is due in part to its writing.  Season One’s writing follows Eliza Scarlett, daughter of well-known private detective Henry Scarlett.  The story opens with Eliza facing her father’s death, and in turn, taking over his business.  The move is a result of not only her own love of solving crimes – instilled by Henry – and a need to financially support herself.  That need to support herself comes because she is a progressive woman in a very male-dominated Victorian-era England.  She does not want to rely on a man, which will appeal to plenty of hardcore feminists today.  Ironically (and no to give away too much) it would seem that odds are she and William – her male counterpart at Scotland Yard – will likely end up together by Season Two. Season One starts off with what seems like a random story, but as the season continues, viewers eventually find that each case that Eliza investigates is connected to the prior, ultimately leading to one last case, which brings everything full circle back to her father’s death.  This writing style will keep viewers engaged throughout.  Of course for all that the writing does to entertain and engage with the storytelling itself, there are some problems.

The future of the relationship between Eliza and William is predictable to say the least.  What’s more, in that Eliza is so progressive yet that she and William are becoming closer, emotionally just seems very contradictory.  This is just one of the problems from which the writing suffers. The all-too-familiar plot element involving the private detective outsmarting the official law enforcement which shows up here detracts from the writing, too.  It has been done so many times in shows, such as Psych, Murder, She Wrote, and even Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? just to name a few shows that have used this approach. To that end, that the show’s writers would fall victim to that trapping is discouraging.  The same applies to Eliza getting herself trapped in “Cell 99.”  The detective getting into a dangerous situation has been done, too.  Even with these negatives in place, the writing in reference to the stories is enough to make the writing of at least some interest.  It is just one of the important items to note in examining this season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke.  The work of the show’s cast is also worth noting in examining this series’ debut season.

The work of Scarlett & The Duke’s cast is entertaining in its own right.  Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin do very well together onscreen as Eliza and William.  The duo’s chemistry is on full display even as their characters come across just as similarly as so many onscreen romantic duos.  It is obvious in watching them together, that as much as they argue, the connection is there.  To that end, the progression of the couple’s relationship and the result of that progression – which will not be revealed here – should come as no surprise.  Keeping that in mind, their acting will appeal to anyone who is already so familiar with so many similar on-screen romantic relationship stories. 

On yet another note, Ansu Kabia is just as impressive as Moses.  Moses becomes a key character in this season’s run.  Odds are, his finale with William makes one wonder if (and even hope that) he will return in Season Two.  It will not be a surprise if he does in fact become a regular in Season Two.  Not to reveal too much, but his acting leaves audiences fittingly wondering throughout, about his loyalties.  It leaves the final reveal that much more fulfilling. His work is just that subtle and impressive.

Speaking of unsuspecting, Danny Midwinter’s role as DS Frank Jenkins adds its own nice touch to the whole.  As William’s partner, he and Martin bounce off of each other so well throughout the season.  It makes the revelation of Jenkins’ truth that much more hard hitting, again, because at no point does he make it even possible to know what would come.  To that end, credit where due with his acting, too.

Looking at all of the notable work put in by the cast of Miss Scarlet & The Duke, it builds on the slightly shaky foundation formed by the writing to help secure that foundation.  That work is just one more notable aspect of the season’s presentation.  The sets and costumes featured in this season add their own interest to the presentation.  The sets that are used, including even the horse-drawn “taxis,” fully immerse audiences into Victorian-era England.  The sound of the horses’ hoofs against the cobblestone streets (yes, there are even cobblestone streets) is a minor aesthetic element, but adds so much to the believability in terms of the backdrop.  At the same time, the cast’s attire – from the men’s suits and tuxedos to the women’s hairstyles, dresses, and hats – is period  appropriate, too.  It serves to show the show runners’ dedication to making the show’s look just as appealing as its acting and writing.  That ensures the program’s engagement and entertainment even more.  When this is considered along with the program’s writing and acting, that whole makes this lead season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke a presentation that the most die hard crime drama will find is worth watching at least once.

The debut season of A&E Networks International’s Miss Scarlet & The Duke will find appeal among most crime drama fans.  That is due in part to its writing, imperfect as it is.  The writing keeps the season moving, as it connects each of the season’s six episodes without making the connections too obvious.  The way in which the season’s stories build on one another and ultimately bring everything together will generate appeal among audiences in hindsight.  The problem with the writing rests more in the plot elements that are tied into the stories.  They are all too familiar within the crime drama realm, and in turn become little more than tropes here.  Luckily, they do not detract from the writing to the point that they completely negate the importance of the writing.  The work of the series’ cast on camera adds its own touch to the whole.  It proves even stronger than the show’s writing because of the professionalism in that presentation.  The show’s look puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  That is because the majority of the show’s look is era-appropriate.  It shows the dedication that went into making the show believable even in that aspect.  When it is considered along with the noted work of the writers and cast, the whole, again, makes this lead season of Miss Scarlet & The Duke a presentation that will appeal for the most part to most crime drama fans.  It is available now on DVD.  More information on this and other shows from A+E Networks International is available online at:




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