Updated Fri, May 3, 2013 9:05 am
Sundays beginning at 8 p.m.
Jeremy Piven stars as the upstart American who taught the English how to shop in Mr. Selfridge, a sumptuous new series created by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House), and airing on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC, Sundays, March 31 through May 19, 2013 at 9 p.m.
Mr. Selfridge marks the first television role for Piven since his portrayal of movie agent Ari Gold in the hit series Entourage. Now, the three-time Emmy® winner tackles another power player in the world of glitz: Harry Gordon Selfridge, father of the renowned London department store that bears his name and which opened to astonishment and some disdain in 1909.
Fancy window displays, cosmetics counters, merchandise you can touch, and other marketing breakthroughs had to start somewhere, and they sprang from the genius of Chicago native Selfridge, who combined guile, taste, boldness, the poise of a swindler, and the seductive charm of a Casanova—qualities that spelled success but also trouble.
The cast includes Zoe Tapper (Stage Beauty) as Ellen Love, showgirl, temptress, and the sexy “face of Selfridge's”; Frances O’Connor (Madame Bovary) as Rose, Harry’s loyal but independent wife; Grégory Fitoussi (Spiral) as the mercurial Henri LeClair, window designer extraordinaire; and Aisling Loftus (Case Histories) as spunky shop girl Agnes Towler, who gets the lucky break of her life thanks to a chance encounter with Harry.
Also appearing are Katherine Kelly (Coronation Street) as Lady Mae, socialite and siren; Ron Cook (Little Dorrit) as Mr. Crabb, Harry’s pathologically nervous chief accountant; Amanda Abbington (Case Histories) as Miss Mardle, the lovelorn head of accessories; and Samuel West (Any Human Heart) as newspaper editor Frank Edwards, Harry’s go-between in courting English money and mistresses.
Mr. Selfridge opens with the newly arrived Harry, fresh from success at Marshall Field's in Chicago, checking the retail climate in London. Marshall Field pioneered the slogan, “The customer is always right.” But Harry finds that a demanding customer in England is likely to get thrown out of the store. Customers are expected to know what they want and, when presented with it, to make their purchase and leave.
Furthermore, English ladies get their dresses from dressmakers who make house calls, and beauty products are a hush-hush subject, associated with actresses and prostitutes.
But all of that is about to change. Channeling the consumer culture of the future, Harry invents a shopping experience that is a cross between theater and fantasy fulfillment. When the intrepid Frenchman Louis Blériot makes the first flight across the English Channel, Harry grandly displays the plane and pilot at Selfridges. When the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova becomes the talk of the town, Harry invites the public to meet her at his store.
Whatever the latest sensation, Harry hitches his star to it. Truly, in his personal life, as in his business, he is addicted to the sensational— which creates exciting complications for all concerned.