The next ‘Down­ton’?

A new adap­ta­tion of literature’s ‘Poldark’ finds re­freshed lush­ness in this tale.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - ROBERT LLOYD TELE­VI­SION CRITIC robert.lloyd@latimes.com

“Poldark” is a pas­sion­ate Bri­tish melo­drama.

Com­ing to “Mas­ter­piece Theater” Sun­day is a new pro­duc­tion of “Poldark,” based on Win­ston Graham’s nov­els of love and fam­ily, cop­per min­ing and class war in late 18th cen­tury Eng­land. You might want to be there when it ar­rives if pas­sion­ate, pe­riod Bri­tish literary melo­dra­mas are at all your thing.

One can’t prop­erly call it a re­make, given its book­ish ori­gins, but for all in­tents and pur­poses the new pro­duc­tion pro­ceeds from an ear­lier se­ries, a small phe­nom­e­non on both sides of the At­lantic that cre­ated a tourist in­dus­try in Cornwall in the 1970s, long be­fore “Doc Martin” be­came syn­ony­mous with that neck of the Bri­tish coast­line.

That ver­sion, which ran 25 teem­ing hours, is avail­able via the online sub­scrip­tion ser­vice Acorn TV; I fell in love with it a few years ago at the time of a com­plete-se­ries DVD re­lease.

If the new se­ries fol­lows very much in its steps, and fine new stars Ai­dan Turner and Eleanor Tom­lin­son some­what re­sem­ble pre­de­ces­sors Robin El­lis (who has a cameo here) and Ang­harad Rees, it’s largely be­cause those steps and those parts were well de­fined on the page. It’s a story in which char­ac­ter, more than chance or fate, drives the nar­ra­tive. Ross Poldark (Turner) is al­ways go­ing to smol­der dark- ly; Demelza (Tom­lin­son) must ever be a crea­ture of light and spirit. And each seems a shade more mod­ern than the neigh­bors.

The ac­tion starts when Ross — he is Ross to ev­ery­one, be­ing lo­cal gen­try but also a man of the peo­ple — re­turns from fight­ing in the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion to find his fa­ther’s es­tate in de­cay. His in­tended is now betrothed to his much less sexy but well-heeled cousin; this strikes him as prob­lem­atic, but he is not one to let the grass grow un­der his feet. And there is a lot of grass in Cornwall.

Demelza is the girl dressed as a boy he res­cues from an abu­sive fa­ther and makes his kitchen maid and then, you know, more than that. I don’t want to give de­tails away, since this is a story whose plea­sures are very much in the un­fold­ing. Suf­fice it to say, each will have a lot to learn, and a lot to learn about each other.

The cur­rent, eight-hour run is some­what stream­lined and faster-paced than the last, longer one (though a sec­ond sea­son has al­ready been com­mis­sioned). But what it sac­ri­fices in di­a­logue it makes up in pic­tures: a beau­ti­ful ob­ject, full of beau­ti­ful ob­jects.

Robert Viglasky Mas­ter­piece

ROSS POLDARK (Ai­dan Turner) re­turns home to his in­tended (Heida Reed).

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