Stiff upper lips meet dastardly deeds
IF you absolutely love your Downton Abbey but sometimes wish your PBS-delivered doses of proper English costume drama were a bit more on the dark and creepy side, this Sunday’s lineup on the U.S. public broadcaster might be just what you’re after. In addition to the usual Downton doings in the Masterpiece Classic (8 p.m.) slot, PBS is also serving up a new 90-minute Masterpiece instalment, The Making of a Lady (9 p.m.), which puts a decidedly different spin (actually, two different and rather mismatched spins) on the oft-explored notion of upper-crust life in the staid and stately English countryside. The Making of a Lady, which is based on a turn-of-the-20th-century novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett ( The Secret Garden, A Little Princess), tells the story of Emily FoxSeaton (Lydia Wilson), an educated but impoverished young Londoner who’s eking out a living by working as a “lady’s companion” to a stiff-lipped aristocrat named Lady Maria Bayne (Joanna Lumley). She’s good at her job, but her efforts could not possibly be more unappreciated — in addition to being dismissive to the point of almost not recognizing Emily as a fellow human being, Lady Maria is also quite forgetful when it comes to timely payment of Emily’s wages, making the poor girl’s boarding-house existence quite challenging. While in the well-heeled lady’s employ, however, Emily meets Maria’s wealthy widower nephew, Lord James Walderhurst (Linus Roache), who takes an obvious but very awkwardly expressed liking to the attractive young woman. And when a misstep in organizing seating at a dinner party leads to Emily’s dismissal, Walterhurst offers a proposal — seriously, a marriage proposal — that he believes will solve problems for each of them: he needs a wife, and eventually an heir to the family fortune, and she needs security.
It’s a lot to digest for a girl who always dreamed she’d marry for love, but Walderhurst offers a gentle but blunt observation: “What are your options?”
Lydia Wilson plays Emily Fox-Seaton, a ‘lady’s companion’ turned lady of the manor.
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