The Masterpiece Classic season premieres on Sunday, January 10th with Return to Cranford, a two part series based on the stories of Victorian-era writer Elizabeth Gaskell. Dame Judi Dench reprises her role of the compassionate Miss Matty Jenkyns, the heart and soul of the small insular Cheshire village resisting the encroachment of the industrial revolution in 1844 England. Also returning as Miss Matty’s dearest friends are Octavia Pole the quirky town gossip (Imelda Staunton – Charlotte Palmer in Sense and Sensibility 1995), the eccentric Mrs. Forrester who dresses her prized cow in flannel pajamas (Julia McKenzie – the eponymous Miss Marple), the self elevated town aristocrat Mrs. Jamieson (Barbara Flynn – Miss Browning in Wives and Daughters) and the dotty but well intentioned Miss Tomkinson (Deborah Findlay – Miss Phoebe in Wives and Daughters). Here is brief synopsis of the first episode from the good folks at PBS:
New life is charmingly apparent in Cranford as Matty Jenkyns enjoys sharing her home with Tilly, the daughter of her maid Martha and carpenter Jem Hearne. Familiar faces including Miss Pole, Mrs. Forrester and Mrs. Jamieson surround Miss Matty in a loving community. Some new faces have arrived as well — Mrs. Bell, her daughter Peggy and son Edward. Mr. Buxton and his son William have returned to town after years away. Young William eagerly aspires to be an engineer, while his father is grieving the loss of his wife. The railway has crept closer to Cranford, but has been halted several miles outside the village. For it to move any further, Lady Ludlow would have to sell part of her land. Captain Brown is determined to make progress for the railway, but meets resistance from the village residents. An unexpected and alarming shift signals yet more change in store for Cranford. Can Matty and the women of Cranford muster support for what inevitably awaits?
Viewers who enjoyed the first six hour mini-series of Cranford last season on Masterpiece Classic will recognize the return of several familiar characters: Martha (Claudie Blakley), Captain Brown (Jim Carter), Sir Charles Maulver (Greg Wise) and Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis) among many others. New additions rounding out this stellar British cast are William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston) and Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker) who offer a new romance in the village for the elders to object too.
Return to Cranford aired in the UK in December, 2009 to much acclaim by critics and strong viewer ratings. It was produced by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin who brought us such classics period dramas as Pride and Prejudice 1995, Emma 1996 and Wives and Daughters 1999. Since the BBC has feigned bonnet fatigue and will not be producing any more period dramas in the immediate future, we must hold fast to this last effort and enjoy it why it lasts. Return to Cranford airs on January 10th and 17th at 9:00 – 10:30 pm eastern on PBS. (check your local listings) Enjoy!
Did you miss the reprise of Cranford that concluded on Sunday, January 3rd? Watch all three episodes of Cranford online at the Masterpiece website until January 10th.
Image courtesy © BBC Worldwide 2010 for MASTERPIECE