Making Masterpiece

Making Masterpiece

25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery! on PBS

Book - 2013
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Did you stop answering the phone at 9.00 P.M. on Sunday nights to watch the original Upstairs, Downstairs ? Did you gather at the water cooler or its electronic equivalent to discuss last night's tragic events on Downton Abbey ? Did you tweet our sister with delight and amazement when Sherlock jumped off the roof, splattered himself on the sidewalk, and then showed up behind a tree at his own grave site? As Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the longest-running prime-time television drama in American history, says in her candid and witty memoir, ' Masterpiece seems to connect people across generations and up and down family trees. The show's longevity forty-two years has to do with the company we keep when we watch it.' When the young Vassar graduate suddenly became the producer of Masterpiece Theatre in 1985, she hadn't actually seen many of he episodes. No did she like mystery novels, through her new job required her to choose British detective stories for the popular offshoot Mystery ! A lifelong Anglophile who'd apprenticed at the BBC World Service, she saw an opportunity for an idealistic young woman to make her mark in the newly established public television system. Twenty-eight years later, Masterpiece is one of the hottest shows on television, from the crinolines of Cranford to the cybernetics of Sherlock . Eaton talks about (and occasionally to) the people who have over the years made Masterpiece the beloved, iconic program it is- hosts such as Alistair Cooke, Diana Rigg, Gillian Anderson, Russel Baker, and Alan Cumming; Upstairs, Downstairs co-creators Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins; Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes; and actors such as Kenneth Branagh and Elizabeth McGovern, with surprising cameos from Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Daniel Radcliffe, who launched his career as the young David Copperfield Rebecca Eaton has also overseen the triumphant transition of 'quill-pen' Masterpiece into the digital age, as Jane Austen meets Facebook, and a whole new generation of viewers learns the pleasures of classic costume drama as well as those of cutting-edge adaptations like Sherlock . Between the unexpected hits and missed marks, the challenges of wrangling money for art, and the perils of rebranding a classic for the twenty-first century, Making Masterpiece has as many dramatic ups, downs, and cliffhangers as most popular television serials. As Kenneth Branagh says in his preface- ' Masterpiece brings together various bodies of work to create something greater than the sum of its parts. And it presents the material with enthusiasm and passion and intelligence and a sense of occasion . The program, the institution, and the many strands of Masterpiece punch way above their weight. I say, well done, Rebecca, and thank you very much.'
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, 2013.
ISBN: 9780670015351
Branch Call Number: 791.450232092 Eat
Characteristics: xvi, 300 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), portraits ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Mulcahy, Patricia


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Feb 24, 2014

Very interesting view from the producer of Masterpiece, detailing how shows go into production, the purchasing and promoting of television programs, etc. I liked it. It could have been better, hence only 4 stars, if the author's personality or writing style had a little more zing, but worth reading if you're into the arts in any way.

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