Mas­ter­piece: Poldark

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER TV PREVIEW -

Par­don me, madam, but is your PBS tote bag vi­brat­ing? Blame “Poldark,” a sweep­ingly ro­man­tic seven-part se­ries from “Mas­ter­piece” that seems sci­en­tif­i­cally en­gi­neered to press the right pe­riod-drama but­tons, start­ing with its ori­gins: Based on the nov­els of Win­ston Graham, a TV adap­ta­tion in 1975 was one of “Mas­ter­piece’s” first hits. Un­less long­time fans are sim­ply un­will­ing to let go of the past, they’ll prob­a­bly for­get the old “Poldark” ever ex­isted al­most as soon as this re­make be­gins.

With sev­eral added lay­ers of lush­ness and a more mod­ern sense of mo­men­tum, “Poldark” tells the story of ex­ceed­ingly hand­some Bri­tish army Capt. Ross Poldark (Ai­dan Turner), who re­turns to coastal Cornwall in 1781 from the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion’s bat­tle­fields, scarred but smarter (as they say). His rel­a­tives and as­so­ci­ates are sur­prised to see Poldark alive— none more so than his for­mer flame, El­iz­a­beth Chenoweth (Heida Reed), who went ahead and got en­gaged (drat!) to Ross’s in­ef­fec­tual cousin Fran­cis (Kyle Soller), the heir ap­par­ent of the fam­ily es­tate.

Cau­tioned by his un­cle that the bot­tom has fallen out of the cop­per-min­ing in­dus­try that once sus­tained the vil­lages, Ross nev­er­the­less re­turns to his late fa­ther’s run-down home-bythe-sea, where he hopes to stim­u­late the econ­omy and his chance at for­tune by re­open­ing a mine. Along the way, Ross hires a wretch­edly poor kitchen maid, Demelza (Eleanor Tom­lin­son), the daugh­ter of an abu­sive miner. Once she’s rid her­self of lice and pret­tied up (and spied on Ross as he skinny-dips), sparks be­gin to fly be­tween ser­vant and master.

It’s ridicu­lous, it’s sump­tu­ous, it’s per­fect sum­mer sor­bet. Turner’s Ross is some­times laugh­ably gallant — sav­ing the day, in­ter­ven­ing in squab­bles, speak­ing his mind, per­form­ing surgery, you name it. There’s rarely a plot point that view­ers won’t spot from some dis­tance out, but as Ross and Demelza’s cou­pling sends all of Cornwall into a dis­ap­prov­ing swoon, it’s a re­fresh­ing de­vel­op­ment for view­ers who are used to pe­riod-drama char­ac­ters hew­ing to a strict so­cial code. With a toss of his lus­cious curls, Ross Poldark does what he pleases. Grade: B

ROBERT VIGLASKY/MAM­MOTH SCREEN FOR MAS­TER­PIECE

Eleanor Tom­lin­son plays Demelza and Ai­dan Turner is Capt. Ross Poldark in the sump­tu­ous up­date.

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