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By Steve McKerrow | February 8, 1992
Thank goodness there is an England. The art of social skewering is so much more finely honed over there, as demonstrated by a new three-part sequence of the PBS series "Masterpiece Theatre."Indeed, the subtle satire of "Titmuss Regained," premiering at 9 p.m. tomorrow on Maryland Public Television, has relevance to this side of the pond, too.David Threlfall returns as the commoner-become-politician Leslie Titmuss of "Paradise Postponed," a series that ran on "Masterpiece Theatre" five years ago. In that story (like this one by John Mortimer, who also wrote "Rumpole of the Bailey")
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By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | December 19, 2013
Earlier this year, I wrote about PBS "NewsHour" losing almost half its audience the last eight years and now averaging under a million viewers a night. I attributed that in part to the program not actually reporting news as much as talking to reporters and analysts about news that had already been reported on other outlets. Tuesday night, as I was cycling through the nightly newscasts, I came upon something even I couldn't remember seeing: A last half of the "NewsHour" that consisted of two stories that had already aired somewhere else and one interview segment that I would be generous in describing as an infomercial for PBS. Think about that for a second, two rerun stories -- one of which ran almost three months ago, and an interview that shamelessly promoted another PBS program.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,Television Critic | July 22, 1992
Los Angeles -- His audience might not be as large as Johnny Carson's. But another TV institution is about to leave the airwaves after more than 20 years of being a regular visitor in the homes of American viewers.Alistair Cooke, 83, will retire as host of PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre," with his last appearance scheduled for Nov. 29, said Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the series."Masterpiece Theatre" is the longest continuing prime-time drama series on TV. And Cooke has been host since it began 22 years ago."
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,david.zurawik@baltsun.com | January 2, 2009
Unwed motherhood, alcoholism, lack of education, a hypocritical church - the themes that swirl around Tess of the D'Urbervilles just keep going around and around and coming back at us. Perhaps, that is why Masterpiece Theatre - now simply Masterpiece Classic - keeps coming back to Tess. Two versions - one by Roman Polanski in 1980 and a second with Justine Waddell in 1998 - have already wowed the critics. But a new, four-hour version arrives tonight on PBS and concludes next Sunday. This Tess is a star vehicle for the actress playing the title role, and Gemma Artertot is more than fine enough to carry trouble and travail that was a woman's lot in 19th-century England.
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By LOS ANGELES TIMES | January 13, 2004
PBS hasn't yet found an underwriter for its 33-year-old Masterpiece Theatre series, but it has landed 11 new corporate funding commitments for other programs, said President and Chief Executive Pat Mitchell, who was in Los Angeles over the weekend attending the television industry's midseason press tour. "We see an encouraging trend," said Mitchell in an interview after the conference's executive session. "I would go so far as to say we're doing much better, but those 11 are pretty substantial programs."
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,Television Critic | October 2, 1993
So, let's get to the real reason for watching the premiere of the 23rd season of "Masterpiece Theatre" tomorrow night at 9 on MPT (Channels 22 and 67): the debut of humorist Russell Baker as Alistair Cooke's replacement as host.There's no other way to say it: Baker is not very good.Actually, there is another way to say it: Baker's pretty bad.Baker knows it.In an interview shortly after his first performance was taped, Baker said, "I suspect I'm going to need a thick hide to survive the first few weeks of comment when all these people say, 'Well, it's not Alistair Cooke.
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By Michael Hill | March 29, 1991
HOUSE OF CARDS" is the type of Masterpiece Theatre that sends you scrambling for the proper British adjectives -- clever, witty, brilliant, delightful, devilish, that sort of stuff.It is at once a thriller and a comedy, a send-up and a cautionary tale, an excruciatingly on-target parody and a fascinating straightforward drama.The subject is politics, and "House of Cards" reduces it to its essential core -- a game played to see who comes out on top. It begins its four-week Masterpiece Theatre run Sunday night at 9 o'clock on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67,The central character is Francis Urquhart of Britain's Conservative Party who holds the position of Chief Whip in Parliament.
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By Michael Hill | January 3, 1991
Masterpiece Theatre checks in Sunday night with an extraordinary one-part, one-hour, one-woman show as Eileen Atkins plays Virginia Woolf in "A Room of One's Own."This is essentially an edited recitation of a lecture Woolf gave in 1928 at one of Cambridge's quasi-official women's colleges, though, as Alistair Cooke notes in his informative introduction, Atkins is not doing an impersonation of Woolf.While Atkins may resemble Woolf with her elongated face and the proto-Annie Hall look favored by this brightest star of the literary constellation known as the Bloomsbury Group, Cooke points out that Atkins' trained dramatic voice is much, much better than Woolf's high-pitched tremble.
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By Steve McKerrow and Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer | January 23, 1993
Every family has secrets that prove painful to uncover. But in drama, the process can provide pleasure and surprise for viewers, as illustrated by a new "Masterpiece Theatre" premiering this weekend."
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By Michael Hill | September 28, 1990
It's not surprising that Harold Pinter discovered Elizabeth Bowen's novel "The Heat of the Day," as it's a perfect setting for one of the playwright's excursions into the meaning of the language that forms the primary substance of a relationship.What is surprising is that Alfred Hitchcock never made a film of this tense psychological drama which Bowen published in 1949.Adapted by Pinter for the small screen, this two-hour movie made by England's Granada Television kicks of the 20th season of Masterpiece Theatre Sunday night at 9 o'clock on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67.It's 1941 in London.
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November 20, 2008
theater 'Peter Pan - the Musical': What a concept - in this production, the boy who won't grow up is actually played by someone with a Y chromosome. ("Peter" traditionally has been portrayed by a woman.) The nontraditional casting meant that some songs had to be reorchestrated. Through Jan. 4 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Drive, Olney. Showtimes vary. Tickets are $25-$48. Call 301-924-3400 or go to olneytheatre.org. Mary CaroleMcCauley design Bike racks: Why do bike racks have to be boring?
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By MAUREEN RYAN and MAUREEN RYAN,CHICAGO TRIBUNE | November 13, 2005
The advance DVD of The Virgin Queen, a handsome Masterpiece Theatre life of Elizabeth I, bears the tagline "She led by leading men on ..." Give Bess some credit. There was a little more to it than that. Still, one can't fault the Masterpiece Theatre folks for hyping the sexy side of the Virgin Queen, which airs at 9 tonight and Nov. 20 on PBS. The TV landscape is competitive, especially on Sundays; not only that, each new telling of Elizabeth's tale must stand out from the pack of previous depictions of the legendary queen's royal career.
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By Michael Sragow | September 23, 2005
Fall is when mainstream producers and directors, like high school and college kids, head back from the beach and prove that they can crack open the books. This is when they unleash the heavyweight projects designed to lure shell-shocked adults back to the theaters and -- who knows? -- maybe win over part of the dating crowd that might recognize an author from an English class. You can empty a small library by checking out the sources of this season's prestige releases. Just for starters there's Oliver Twist and Pride and Prejudice, David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Gerald Clarke's biography Capote, Steve Martin's Shopgirl, Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated and Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Next week's shoreline thriller, Into the Blue, starring Jessica Alba in a bikini, is the exception that proves the rule.
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By LOS ANGELES TIMES | January 13, 2004
PBS hasn't yet found an underwriter for its 33-year-old Masterpiece Theatre series, but it has landed 11 new corporate funding commitments for other programs, said President and Chief Executive Pat Mitchell, who was in Los Angeles over the weekend attending the television industry's midseason press tour. "We see an encouraging trend," said Mitchell in an interview after the conference's executive session. "I would go so far as to say we're doing much better, but those 11 are pretty substantial programs."
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | October 5, 2002
The miniseries The Forsyte Saga signals a foundering PBS trying to get back in touch with its roots and re-create the kind of Sunday-night buzz that has been missing on public television since the arrival of another sprawling Sunday-night family saga, HBO's The Sopranos. As entertainment, the eight-hour adaptation of John Galsworthy's Victorian epic on the Forsyte family delivers most of the goods. There is a great performance by Damien Lewis (Band of Brothers) as Soames Forsyte, the tormented lead character, a lawyer highly skilled in making money but a desperate failure in making love to the woman he weds.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | January 28, 2002
After being forced to read Othello in more college courses than I care to remember, and seeing Shakespeare modernized far too often, word that Masterpiece Theatre was doing the tragedy as a contemporary cop drama didn't exactly set my heart racing. Not even a screenplay by the brilliant Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) could raise my dismal expectations. Was I wrong. This Othello, about a black police commissioner and set in Scotland Yard, is a mesmerizing dramatic ride through race, ambition, paranoia, false friendship, political correctness, jealousy and lies.
FEATURES
By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | January 28, 2002
After being forced to read Othello in more college courses than I care to remember, and seeing Shakespeare modernized far too often, word that Masterpiece Theatre was doing the tragedy as a contemporary cop drama didn't exactly set my heart racing. Not even a screenplay by the brilliant Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) could raise my dismal expectations. Was I wrong. This Othello, about a black police commissioner and set in Scotland Yard, is a mesmerizing dramatic ride through race, ambition, paranoia, false friendship, political correctness, jealousy and lies.
FEATURES
By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | January 18, 1998
It's been more than a year since we've had a "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation worth going out of our way to see. But the wait ends tonight with the arrival of "Reckless," a six-hour miniseries that's part domestic drama, part romantic comedy and all kinds of steamy, smart, sophisticated fun."Reckless" touches all the bases of contemporary adult drama and then some: marriage, mid-life angst, balancing personal and professional lives, social class differences, boomers caring for aging parents, doctors in love, older-woman-younger-man relationships and older-man-younger-woman trysts as it explores the classic theme of what fools we mortals be, especially when we're in heat.
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By Michael Sragow and Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC | June 1, 2001
For decades, the producing-directing team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory has been denigrated for plush and cautious "Masterpiece Theatre" moviemaking. After comparing their production of Henry James' "The Golden Bowl" to the 1972 BBC production that appeared on "Masterpiece Theatre," I consider any such comparison an insult - to "Masterpiece Theatre." The Merchant-Ivory "Golden Bowl" takes a literary milestone of ambiguity and makes everything about it blisteringly obvious. The "Masterpiece Theatre" version, written by Jack Pulman - the same adapting genius who dramatized "I, Claudius" for the BBC - slyly and wisely pulls you into a tissue of evasion, half-truth and elegant prevarication.
FEATURES
By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | May 12, 2001
"Take A Girl Like You" has style, a cool jazz score, rich 1950s detail, a good-looking leading man and a gorgeous female star. Based on a book by Kingsley Amis, it also has a script by Andrew Davies, the best screenwriter in English television ("A Rather English Marriage"). So why does this four-hour miniseries from "Masterpiece Theatre" leave me so cold? The answer lies in what the producers have done to Amis' book. Written in the 1950s, it was part of the Angry Young Man movement in England - a full-frontal literary assault on a stultifying system of social class and morality that was still firmly in place despite a world war that had threatened England's very existence.
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