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