For all intents and purposes, I am in love with Harry Gordon Selfridge. He is a self made man who changed the histories of two nations by revolutionizing the customer service and retail industries. He was an advocate of women’s rights, veteran affairs and fair wages. He built a team of employees who shared his vision and didn’t take any member of his staff or any of his customers for granted.
If you’ve been to Macy’s and saw the make up section when you walked in, or you got to spend a couple of hours reading the packaging of your favorite line of toys at Toys R US, or you tried clothes on at K-mart, or you fell in love with the displays on your last trip to Sainsbury, then you have already seen Selfridge’s influence on our culture.
He’s also a man that enjoyed a lifetime of success, only to have the rug ripped out from under him by his own company. If there’s one thing I love more than an underdog story, it’s the story of a man who got royally screwed.
Selfridge is a historical docudrama that is currently in the middle of the third season. And the titular character is played by none other than Jeremy Piven, a man I fell in love with equally as a result of his titular role in Cupid.
The other thing that should make me love this show is that it’s one of the few shows on PBS that doesn’t make me wonder why anyone would want to live in a neighborhood where someone gets murdered once a week.
With all of the things this show has going for it, why don’t I want to watch it? I got into Downton Abbey easily enough. I like Call the Midwife. All of these are long running shows that I just got into late in the game, so why don’t I want to get involved in Selfridge?
The first big reason is that I saw the documentary about the real life Harry Selfridge before I knew about the series. Oh, I had seen the previews of Selfridge, but I naturally thought that it was just another murder mystery series that takes place on a Scottish island where the only suspects are the nine other people who live on the same island. But when I saw the documentary and put two and two together, I suddenly realized that Selfridge is a long running television series with only one possible ending that isn’t going to be any less depressing. In my mind, that’d be like watching a series about the life of Joseph Bruce Ismay.
Selfridge is the dramatized version of a real man’s life and I have enough reality in my own life. Alternatively, I watch Downton Abbey because even though it is much more loosely based on a real place and real people, it’s further removed from reality enough that I can take comfort in the fiction and have maybe a teensy bit of hope for the future of the characters. I can’t speculate on what’s going to happen to Selfridge, because history has already written that story, but I can speculate all I want about the future of Mrs. Pattmore, Mr. Branson, Lady Rose and her daughter Marigold and the other unresolved storylines of Downton.
The second reason is that, as I’ve already mentioned, Selfridge is in its third season. That means that if I want to watch the entire series, I need to track down the other four seasons, find the time to sit and watch them all and hope that I haven’t wasted my time by borrowing them from a library that really doesn’t care what happens to the items it lends out.
But, maybe I could watch an episode of the fifth season with someone who already has seen and loves Selfridge and can explain to me all of the characters, and backstories and plot arcs and other intricate details that would make my understanding of the series more complete and therefore more enjoyable. No.
Way back when I was living in Bennington, my friend Kyle urged me to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I had not seen The Fellowship of the Ring, but that didn’t matter. We had a couple hours to kill and there was nothing else playing that Kyle agreed we could see. (Long story about him in another post, I promise)
How much of that two and half hour movie that I paid for do you think I spent actually watching it instead of hearing about all of the characters, the backstories, the plot arcs, and the other intricate details that would make my understanding of the trilogy more complete? If you said roughly an hour, you wouldn’t be that far off. And an hour is exactly how long an episode of Selfridge is, give or take fifteen minutes.
Do you think I can really enjoy something when I’m spending more time listening to someone tell me about the four year history of the show? Would you be able to enjoy a movie if I told you about all of the actors, the interviews, the magazine articles, and the other information that would be a lot more useful if you could be allowed to take the time to look it up yourself when you’ve had a chance to watch the movie in peace and quiet?
Alas, Selfridge is the sacrificial lamb when it comes to the shows I want to invest my time and energy into. So much to the sad realization of my growing circle of readers and friends, Selfridge is a show I have no interest in pursuing any further.