BBC Imports: Our Never-Ending Love Affair with England’s Class System

April 27, 2014
Downton Abbey, WIkipedia

Downton Abbey, Wikipedia

Ann Thompson’s summer class will explore our great love affair with BBC film/TV imports, and in the process, reacquaint us with their connection to well-known British authors such as John Galsworthy, Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse. Thompson will examine the difference in direction, design, filming techniques and audience sensibilities represented by BBC programs of the last fifty (almost) years. We interviewed Thompson to find out more about this upcoming class, “BBC Imports: From the Forsyte Saga to Downton Abbey”.


WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?


It highlights how everything is connected, and how even the most mundane entertainments in our lives, such as soap opera and graphic novels (or comics as they used to be known), have fascinating antecedents.

Snob Opera addiction goes back one-hundred seventy-five years or so, to the reading public’s fascination with “The Pickwick Papers” – both born of the need of a newly literate society for steadily available entertainment with a connecting thread running through it to pull the weekly experience together.

Julian Fellowes is, in effect, doing in the twenty-teens what Dickens, Thackeray, Conrad and many others did in the mid-1800s.

WIH Reporter: How will it change the way we look at the BBC dramas?

Thompson: It will revive memories of outstanding productions in radio serials and television series and highlight the different production values and acting styles used by the BBC as opposed to home grown shows.

WIH Reporter: What important things from the  last era (comprising 175 years) keep us glued to BBC imports?

Thompson: The ‘servanted’ life, the position of women, class differences, the quite astonishing sexual shenanigans seething underneath the pall of respectability

In addition, I am going to explore how Edwardians of all classes amused themselves at the opera house, the music hall and in the boudoirs of the likes of Cora Pearl – the Girl With The Swansdown Seat who was the toast of London and Paris, occasionally served up at ‘special’ (gentlemen only) dinner parties on a giant silver platter naked but covered in a delicate pink sauce. It is summer in Houston and all I want is to amuse with a touch of class …

Thompson’s 4-week class begins at 1 p.m. on June 2, 2014. For more information, click here.