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Saturday, 20 October 2007

Review: 'Amazing Mrs. Pritchard' takes charge - from sfgate.ocm

The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard: "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries. Starring Jane Horrocks, Janet McTeer. 9 p.m. Sunday, with subsequent episodes 9 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 18, and encore broadcasts, on KQED.

Back in 1923, F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to maintain the early momentum of his literary success with his play "The Vegetable," which was subtitled "From Postman to President." Later on, Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" appeared, and remains perhaps the best-known American treatment of the ancient fantasy that the average Joe can make it to the higher echelons of power and change the world.

The latest treatment of the subject comes with the new "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," starring the equally amazing Jane Horrocks, who plays a supermarket manager who gets fed up with the antics of politicians during one of Britain's national elections and suddenly finds herself running for Parliament. Ros Pritchard is a thoroughly modern woman who balances a career and being wife to her bean-counter husband, Ian (Steven Macintosh) and their two daughters, Emily (Carey Mulligan) and Georgina (Jemma McKenzie-Brown). One day, while breaking up a brawl between two competing politicians in front of her market, Ros is caught on TV camera expressing exasperation at the prevarication and deceptiveness of most politicians and offering that she could do a much better job in Parliament than either of the clowns she's just sent packing.

Soon enough, Ros finds herself running for Parliament. And quicker than you can say, well, "Gordon Brown," she's managed some major defections from the Tory and Labor parties and has succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister. On taking office, she vows to the British people that she will never lie to them and, with the support of her Purple Alliance party, she tries to bring a populist program to government. Most of her ministers, for example, are women, a point that is subtly but effectively made in Sally Wainwright's exquisitely detailed, character-driven script.

Soon enough, she begins to understand both Lord Acton's observation that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" and Kissinger's view that "power is the greatest aphrodisiac." Who is out to get her? Someone on the inside, it seems. Could it be formidable Catherine Walker (Janet McTeer), a defector from the former dominant party who's become the chancellor of the exchequer and is viewed by Pritchard detractors as the real power behind the front bench? Or the home secretary, Hilary Rees Benson (Geraldine James), whose altruism may have driven her to betray the boss? Maybe it's Kitty Porter (Frances Tomelty), the reptilian owner of the supermarket chain, who's dumped a frightening amount of money into Ros' campaign.

What gives "Mrs. Pritchard" a good deal of verisimilitude is that writer-creator Wainwright has freighted the series with a good many real-world details, including Ros' distrust of George Bush's influence on British foreign policy, her belief that Blair erred in getting the United Kingdom involved in the Iraq war, and the very real threat of terrorist attacks on Britain.

Meanwhile, very human dramas are playing out all around her. Ros' elder daughter is enticed to pose nude for a racy magazine, a member of Parliament from Ros' party goes out drinking when her marriage falls apart and is caught by a photographer from a sleazy tabloid, Ros' husband has a secret in his past that, if known by his wife, could topple her government, and, to top it all off, Catherine begins bedding down with her much younger speechwriter and finds herself both in love and preggers.

The performances are extraordinary, from the starring roles on down. Horrocks, best known for playing the addle-headed Bubble in "Absolutely Fabulous" and the lead character in the wonderfully quirky film "Little Voice," is so good in the role, you'll wish she'd been born in the United States and could toss her hat into the American presidential race. Wisely, she never plays Ros in an over-the-top way. The same decisiveness and capability she shows when Ros is "only" managing the supermarket characterizes her style of running the country. McTeer, another actress we'd watch in virtually anything, is superb as Catherine - tough as nails, but then, in the face of real love, not so much. The rest of the cast is equally great, in part because of the performances, of course, but also because of the care Wainwright has put into the details of their characters.

The three directors on the series - Simon Curtis, Declan Lowney, Catherine Morshead - clearly share a unanimity of vision. And there's no doubt that vision comes primarily from Wainwright's script and concept of the story. In the end, the action comes down to certain choices that, depending on their resolution, will have inevitable consequences for some of the major characters. My one quibble with the series is that the resolution is not played out, but rather comes in a printed afterword. Regardless of how we might have wanted things to turn out at that point, Wainwright undervalues her audience a bit here by not giving it the satisfaction of seeing the finale dramatized.

No matter. "Mrs. Pritchard" is still amazing and great fun. Of course, something like it could never happen in real life. And that makes it rather wistful as well.

More TV Highlights for Mrs Pritchard

From Desret Morning News

Masterpiece Theatre (8 p.m., Ch. 7): In Part 1 of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a supermarket manager (Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous") is unexpectedly elected prime minister.
From HeraldNet

She's a caring, efficient supermarket manager: How does she rise to the position of her country's prime minister? That's the saga of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries about a frustrated British subject who runs for Parliament to make a point: The people in power are a lousy lot.

A political neophyte, Ros Pritchard finds herself at the forefront of a feminist revolution -- the new Purple Democratic Alliance -- which wins in a landslide. But once in office, she must learn fast while holding on to the qualities that got her there.

By turns funny, touching and inspiring, this series will speak to any viewer who ever scoffed at government and thought: I wouldn't do a bit worse if I were in charge. Starring Jane Horrocks, it premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on PBS.
From Star Tribune

See Jane run

Jane Horrocks stars in "Masterpiece Theatre: The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (8 p.m. Sunday, KTCA, Ch. 2), a five-part miniseries about an English superstore manager who finds herself running for Parliament. We'd find this premise entirely inplausible if we didn't remember a pro wrestler who wound up as our governor. Now when is "Masterpiece Theatre" going to get to that tale?


FROM GROCERY TO GOVERNMENT. Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous" (wifty Bubble) stars in a very contemporary new "Masterpiece Theatre" (tomorrow 9-11 p.m., WNET/13). As "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard," airing through Nov. 18, she's a supermarket manager turned political sensation, running a grassroots race for Britain's Parliament and suddenly serving as prime minister. All you need to know at /masterpiece/mrspritchard.


The viewing polls are open. And lovers of witty Brits just might want to vote for "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a sly fable about a plucky supermarket manager (Jane Horrocks, "Little Voice," "Absolutely Fabulous") who shocks the establishment to become Britain's newest prime minister when "Masterpiece Theatre" kicks off its 37th season with the lively five-part miniseries at 9 p.m. Sunday on PBS. Working mother of two Ros Pritchard (Horrocks) captures the fancy of a disillusioned electorate and is swept into office, sparking a feminist political uprising that thoroughly shakes up Parliament. Move England's capital, demote the queen and actually do something about global warming? Those are just a few of Prime Minister Pritchard's bold moves. Amazing indeed... as well as lots of fun. "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" has my vote.

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard Review from South Coast

The great comic actress Jane Horrocks has made a career of playing mousey little women who roar. She channeled the fire and passion of singers like Judy Garland and Eartha Kitt in the 1998 film "Little Voice" and became an integral part of the cast of "Absolutely Fabulous," arguably the best and most influential sitcom of the past 20 years.

Now she stars in "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (9 p.m. Sunday, PBS) a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation from Britain. A perky, advice-dispensing supermarket manager in a West Yorkshire suburb, Mrs. Ros Pritchard is inspired to run for Parliament when she has to break up a fistfight between male Tory and Labor candidates outside of her store.

As the police converge, the press captures her exasperation at the arrogance of politics as usual. Her slogan, "I could do better than you," captures the public imagination. Soon, she's not only running but also heading a Purple coalition of fed-up citizens, almost exclusively women. The resulting tidal wave washes Pritchard and her coalition to a majority, turning the former store manager into the most unlikely and admittedly unprepared prime minister.

"Pritchard" has the feel-good optimism and inspirational faith in the common man (and woman) found in Frank Capra movies of old. But like the best fairy tales, "Mrs. Pritchard" has its nightmare elements, particularly for her husband, Ian (Steven Mackintosh), and fetching teenage daughter, Emily (Carey Mulligan). The miniseries does a good job of balancing the personal and the political, exploring the furious multitasking required for a woman to put together a Cabinet, face a foreign-policy crisis and find a new school for her youngest daughter — all on her first day on the job.

It doesn't help that her husband may have some dark secrets to hide, or that the press will stop at nothing to find photos of Emily in the nude, or that some of Ros' new allies may have less than pure motives. It may seem beyond incredible that a major democracy would choose a perfectly ordinary stranger to head their government, but viewers will have no problem casting their vote and falling a little bit in love with Horrocks and "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard."

'Mrs. Pritchard': Her life less ordinary - from Los Angeles Times

The acting is terrific in 'Mrs. Pritchard,' an otherwise standard British series about a citizen-politician.
By Mary McNamara
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 20, 2007

At some point, almost everyone thinks he or she could do a better job running the country than those pesky politicians, making the conceit of an ordinary citizen suddenly propelled into the halls of power an evergreen. From "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to "Dave," Americans love to believe that there's nothing wrong with the system that a little real-people common sense and integrity couldn't put right.

And now, it seems, the Brits agree. In "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," debuting Sunday night on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre," a brightly brisk grocery store manager, played winningly by Jane Horrocks, watches in horror as Tory and Labor candidates come to blows outside her shop. She decides she could certainly do a better job than "that lot" and, after a well-timed display of televised outrage, gathers enough public support to form a third party, the Purple Alliance. With the deep-pocket support of the grocery chain owner and the insightful murmur of a top political advisor in her ear, Ros Pritchard gains key defections from both Tory and Labor, the Purple Alliance sweeps the nation and next thing we know, Ros is settling in at 10 Downing Street as prime minister.

There, she spends the next four episodes learning that there's a bit more to running a country than she once thought; that no one, including herself, is quite what they seem; and that power is a complicated and mercurial suitor.

As an argument for the citizen-politician, "Mrs. Pritchard" is not terribly persuasive -- the innovations she introduces, the stands she takes, are not earth-shattering by any means, particularly to an American audience. The personal conflict she finds herself embroiled in is not terribly believable and, as far as plot lines dealing with inter-party power plays and the price a world leader's family pays, there's nothing here that wasn't already done much better on "The West Wing."

What "Mrs. Pritchard" does have going for it, what makes it worth watching, is terrific acting from its rather astonishing ensemble. Horrocks, best known here for her title role in the film "Little Voice," as well as a turn as Bubble, the ditzy secretary in the British television cult classic "Absolutely Fabulous," goes completely against type. Yes, there are times when the voice gets high enough, and the Lancashire accent broad enough, to remind us that she also gave voice to a particularly dim-witted hen in "Chicken Run," but she manages, without fanfare, to portray the metamorphosis of perky grocery store manager to prime minister in an organic, very physical way.

The wonderful Janet McTeer appears as Catherine Walker, the former Tory representative who becomes Ros' deputy prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer. Catherine gives "Mrs. Pritchard" whatever grounding in actual politics it may have. Smart, tough, unblinking and unapologetic, she is the sort of woman you would like to have as prime minister, or president, for that matter. Even when given a fairly ridiculous romantic story line to sort out, McTeer, who was also just seen in the amazing "Five Days," manages to lend the whole thing a complexity and maturity it might not actually deserve.

Likewise, Jodhi May creates, rather than plays, Miranda Lennox, the political advisor who steers Ros through her campaign and into the treacherous waters of politics. With her soft, fair face and enormous dark eyes, May is an actress who moves easily through time, showing up in costume dramas and modern narratives with an almost archetypal presence.

As Ros' elder daughter, Emily, Carey Mulligan (Ada in "Bleak House") is a caldron of adolescent emotions, and Frances Tomelty makes a powerful and inscrutable Kitty Porter, the millionaire who smooths Ros' way.

It's difficult to imagine a similar ensemble of American actresses, mainly because in the U.S., even on television, only a relatively few get enough work to achieve this level of craft. Those who do find themselves corseted, sometimes literally, by our narrow standards of beauty, which too often involve Botox, plastic surgery and eating disorders.

Perhaps in deference to the queen, Britain is kinder and wiser with its women -- there has already been a female prime minister, after all -- allowing all manner of womanhood their personal beauty. On British television, you don't have to have legs that go on forever or visibly toned arms or a face that miraculously never ages to land a significant role. Down to the wardrobe -- most of the politicos wear a few outfits over and over, just like real women do -- "Mrs. Pritchard" takes American television to task. It may not be the most revealing portrait of political leadership available, but it is a reminder of how important real people are. Not just to politics, but to the cultural tapestry as well.,1,1544549,print.story?coll=la-entnews-tv&ctrack=1&cset=true

Friday, 19 October 2007

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard series launches PBS 37th season of ‘Masterpiece Theatre’.

TV Highlights – from

"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (9 p.m., WTVS-TV, Channel 56, PBS). Jane Horrocks ("Little Voice," "Absolutely Fabulous") stars as a West Yorkshire working mother who brashly takes on the political pros and shocks a nation to become Britain's most unlikely new prime minister as "Masterpiece Theatre" launches its 37th season with a lively, entertaining five-part miniseries fable. Say yes to PBS with a vote for Mrs. Pritchard.

Cast your vote for the grocer - from South Florida

What becomes of Britain when a supermarket manager, new to politics, impulsively runs for office — and wins?

In The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, Ros Pritchard (Jane Horrocks) uses her power as prime minister to institute a one-day-a-week car ban and to propose moving the seat of power from London to the suburbs. She even suggests the British royalty is archaic and no longer needed.

Peppered with salty language, this light-hearted five-part BBC miniseries, airing as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, follows Ros' political rise, beginning with her "Purple Party" candidacy and her surprise victory.

Aided by her all-woman cabinet, Ros works quickly to get up to speed on issues. She meets with heads of state while juggling the demands of her husband, Ian (Steven Mackintosh), and two daughters. Her family is ambivalent about Ros' newfound ambition, and a secret of Ian's could derail her career.

Writer Sally Wainwright said she created Ros out of her own dissatisfaction with England's political choices in the 2005 national election.

"Ros reminded me of a very bright but ordinary woman," she said. "People go into that situation with ideals and optimism, then are shocked by the reality of dealing with people who don't think like they do."

The miniseries airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on WXEL-Ch. 42, at 10 p.m. on WPBT-Ch. 2.

Tom Jicha
TV and Radio Writer
October 20, 2007,0,4524905,print.column

Miniseries improves with every episode - from

Tiny Jane Horrocks -- or at least she seems tiny compared with everyone else in the cast -- turns in a bravura performance in "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries beginning Sunday.

What's amazing about this Mrs. Prit-chard (accent on the second syllable)?

One day, she's the every-vegetable-in-its-place manager of a supermarket in small-town England. Months later, she's prime minister of Britain. And that's the only implausible note in the entire miniseries.

"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" made its British debut last year, just weeks after Tony Blair announced he would be stepping down as prime minister. It airs here as various presidential campaigns heat up with a possible female front-runner.

Ros Pritchard has nothing in common with these professional politicians. She's a not-so-average wife and mother fed up with the usual candidates for Parliament.

"I can do better than that," she thinks, and suddenly has a groundswell of support. Her newly formed Purple Democratic Alliance party wins the majority, and she finds herself leading the country -- or, as the opposition claims, being led by members of her Cabinet.

As a newcomer to 10 Downing Street, Mrs. Pritchard has much to get used to. A personal secretary joined at the hip. A schedule that keeps her shuffling from one very important meeting to another in 15-minute increments. Scant time to spend with her husband, played by Steven Mackintosh, and two daughters.

And the international crises never end. Within minutes of becoming prime minister, Mrs. Pritchard must contend with a military emergency in the Middle East. (She's anti-Bush, by the way; also anti-monarchy.)

Mrs. Pritchard is an empathetic, caring leader. She can afford to be, because her Cabinet members, almost all female, are professional politicians who know how to work the system. This is especially true of Janet McTeer as Catherine Walker, a high-ranking member of another party who defects to the Purple Alliance.

Walker is the opposite of Pritchard: tall, single, painfully career-minded. Her affair with a much younger speechwriter is one of several soap opera elements that spice up the drama.

This is a miniseries that gets better with each episode and every crisis.

Mrs. Pritchard may be perfect, but not the people around her. Her older daughter hates not having an identity of her own. Her husband has a secret that could harm her politically. Her party members, many of them political newcomers too, aren't immune from scandal or bad judgment.

Watching Mrs. Pritchard evolve from naive do-gooder to savvy head of state, with salty language to match, will test the viewer's political beliefs as well.

Will you see her as becoming corrupted or learning how to best navigate political waters?

One warning: As an outsider from West Yorkshire, Mrs. Pritchard doesn't speak in easy-to-understand BBC English. Be prepared not to understand everything she says, although her intent will always be clear.

When: 9 to 11 p.m. Sunday,
then 9 to 10 p.m. on subsequent Sundays through Nov. 18
Where: PBS


PBS unfurls an 'Amazing' political race "Masterpiece Theatre: The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard"

COMIC STEPHEN COLBERT seems to be tossing his clown shoes into the ring to run in both the Democrat and Republican primaries in his native South Carolina as a candidate for the President of the United States.

"After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching," Colbert said on his Tuesday night Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report," "I have heard the call. I am doing it."

Truth or truthiness? I think we all know the answer to that question. Yet it didn't stop TV and print news outlets across the country reporting it. Chalk it up to a slow news day, or the fact that even Colbert looked better than some of the candidates out there.

We know this makes great television for "The Colbert Report," but what if the political joker actually got on the ticket and people voted him into office?

That far-fetched idea of disenfranchised voters going for the nontraditional candidate forms the basis of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a miniseries that aired last year in Britain to poor ratings before PBS imported it here.

Despite the tepid British response, we think this is a grand series for anyone who has ever been dumbfounded by the antics of our elected officials, anyone who has ever said a howler monkey makes more sense than our president and especially for anyone who has ever shaken a fist at the tube

and said they could do a better job than these yahoos.

"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" answers the question: What would happen if an ordinary person of reasonable intelligence and a good helping of common sense ever made it into a high elected office?

Mrs. Ros Pritchard — played by the engaging Jane Horrocks ("Little Voice") — decides to make a point by running for Parliament. She is spurred after witnessing the two candidates acting like bullies in a schoolyard brawl.

She makes the life-altering statement that she could "do better than this lot." So she plunks down 500 pounds, gets a few fliers together and runs for office.

"I will never lie to you," she tells her supporters. "I will never mislead you."

Suddenly, both powerful and powerless women are joining her on her independent Purple Alliance platform, and the British people have found a new hero. In this fantasy, Ros not only wins a place in Parliament, she earns enough votes to become Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, her loving but less-than-perfect family is bearing the brunt of suddenly being pushed into the spotlight. To quote a cliche older than "This isn't my first rodeo," be careful of what you wish for.

Husband Ian (Steven Mackintosh) hides a horrible secret that could topple Ros' rise to power, and worse, destroy his family. Rebellious beauty Emily (Carey Mulligan) revels in being the daughter of the Prime Minister, but quickly becomes emotionally crippled by the association.

The series is billed as a comedy, and though it has a somewhat comic tone at the beginning, "Mrs. Pritchard" changes dramatically through the course of the five installments starting with the two-hour premiere and subsequent one-hour episodes thereafter.

After a giddy beginning, in which Ros transitions from an efficient, well-meaning grocery store manager, wife and mum to a powerful world leader, things turn decidedly darker.

The script by Sally Wainwright takes plenty of shots at the inefficiencies of British government, but even more at President George Bush. There's no denying where Wainwright stands as her characters rail against supporting Bush's foray into Iraq, the lack of movement by world leaders to stop global warming and the government inefficiencies that result in poor school funding and soft safety policies.

The anti-Ros is career-obsessed Catherine Walker, a high-ranking member of the Conservative Party who defects to Ros' campaign in a rare spontaneous moment. She's rewarded with the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Janet McTeer steals the show with her intense portrait of a woman who stumbles in her private life, but never in her public one.

Harsh reality keeps pounding on Ros' door until she must finally decide if staying in office is worth tossing her moral compass. In the final scene, we may be left wondering what decision she makes. In the British version, there was an epilogue that told you how it all ends. That piece of information was lacking in the review copy sent out. If it doesn't come on, you can go to my blog at on the final night, Nov. 18, where I'll reveal it.

by Susan Young

Vote for 'Mrs. Pritchard' – from

The theme of outsiders revolutionizing government has always been popular in Hollywood, which, long before Ronald Reagan - and "Dave" - gave us Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

But it turns out Americans aren't the only ones who can get romantic about politics.

PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" launches its 37th season this weekend with "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (9 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 18, Channel 12), a miniseries about a supermarket manager (Jane Horrocks) who gets herself elected prime minister of Great Britain.

Even in Britain, which has had more experience than the United States in being led by a woman (more than one if you count the queen), Ros Pritchard's rapid rise to power plays like a bit of a fairy tale.

But that's more than half the fun of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," whose first exhilarating episode is followed by a few reality checks, both political and personal.

By the end, you might feel as if you're watching a different series altogether.

If you want to know how the British entertainment industry really feels about the United States and the war in Iraq - and about those in their country that have supported both - you've only to turn to Hugh Grant's portrayal of a Yank-resistant British PM in "Love Actually."

Or to Ros Pritchard, whose down-to-earth approach to politics doesn't rule out some George Bush-bashing along the way.

Review of The Amazing Mrs Pritchard DVD from DVD

One of our most enduring modern fantasies is that of the common person thrust into politics. Once there, in a seat of high power, this average citizen can bring a more down-to-earth perspective to things. After all, our leaders seem so far removed from reality that the very notion of common sense itself is foreign to them. Jefferson Smith brought honesty and integrity back to the Senate; Dave Kovic rescued a corrupt White House.

Now comes "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard," the 2006 BBC mini-series finally arriving Stateside on DVD. (It also premieres this month on PBS.) To "make a point" about the embarrassing state of politics today, and to publicly complain about the disturbing position of having to vote for a lesser of two evils, supermarket manager Ros Pritchard (Jane Horrocks) decides to run for Parliament. Her decision turns her into a media darling and public favorite literally overnight, and soon the independent is forced to create a new political party - the Purple Alliance - when dozens of other non-politicos (almost exclusively women) opt to stand up themselves and also make a run for office. To everyone's surprise, including Ros', the party wins in a landslide, and Ros is thrust into the role of Prime Minister.

It sounds rather far-fetched, to be sure, but series writer/creator Sally Wainwright ("At Home with the Braithwaites") uses a very common sense of disappointment with political figures to show how the right person in the right circumstances could indeed trump the fatcats. Ros' enthusiasm, sincerity, and sharp tongue make her instantly lovable, the sort of strong personality that could very well indeed capture the public eye.

What Wainwright does with her heroine is use her to challenge the very notions of righteousness we all insist we would carry with us into such a situation. When Ros says in an inauguration speech that she would never lie to or mislead the public, it's a bold statement, one we're sure we'd love to make ourselves. Better than those dirty liars in power, we'd think. But what happens when reality slams headfirst into Ros' ideals? Will Ros stand firm by her promise, or will she break it, if only once, if it's for the greater good?

It's an ethical dilemma that truly challenges Ros' notions of life at 10 Downing Street. Ros' husband Ian (Steven Mackintosh) has a dark secret Ros' aides work overtime to keep buried from Ros herself. If she were to discover the truth, would she be forced to resign? Or should she remain in office while hiding the secret, a solitary instance of dishonesty toward the public? When does "not bringing it up at all" become a form of lying? And if every Prime Minister, even the good ones, had at least one skeleton in the closet, shouldn't Ros be allowed the same?

Between this, we get a steady blend of domestic drama (Ros' family struggles to adjust to the new life) and "West Wing"-style political intrigue (each episode presents a new challenge for Ros - and yes, we even get a recycling of Sorkin's trademark "walk and talk" staging). Wainwright uses the series as a platform for unabashedly liberal ideas, some of which deliver a peek inside the national mood of the U.K. While some of these ideas remind us of the series' mere fiction-ness (Ros pushes to move the capital out of London and into a working class town in the center of England), and others come across more as clumsy rhetoric than workable drama (Ros keeps mentioning Bush and Blair's screw-ups in Iraq, yet the series never forces her to deal with the subject beyond a line of two of dialogue), there is a steady supply of crises and ideas put forth a notion of just what's on the mind of a nation. Ros asks the public for their input into a major policy-making speech, and we get a montage of citizens offering a wide variety of solutions.

Again, we drift heavily into liberal territory here. Ros implements "Green Wednesday," a permanent law banning most car usage one day a week as a means of curbing global warming. It's met with stern opposition (I'm curious what conservative viewers would make of the series' cartoonishly villainous Tory leader; while the script works hard to present a more balanced view of most political ideas, the intelligent rebuttals to Ros' ideas come from within her own party, leaving the Tories to rant and rave with scenery-chewing buffoonery) but becomes a success. It's a common theme in this series, these wildly optimistic points of view that earn mild counter-arguments before ultimately proving Ros right. At least Aaron Sorkin had his liberal president lose a few fights, just to keep the balance.

Wainwright does manage to find more grey areas in the plotting than the above paragraph suggests, yet she still finds a way for Ros to win out. Consider the episode in which a plane explodes over London. The knee-jerk Tories scream of terrorism, while Ros and her allies demand we step back and not rush to judgment. Wainwright offers an alternate solution, complete with grey area intact: the plane itself, a foreign model, was faulty, but such faults have been allowed by sloppy legislation by the British government. Such a solution highlights concerns with British dealings with the European Union while simultaneously pointing fingers at a Parliament that's asleep at the wheel - and yet Wainright still manages to make her heroine flawless, both in our eyes and in those of the fictional public.

Despite this push to keep Ros and her political beliefs above reproach, the series succeeds wonderfully, thanks to some sharp writing (it's liberal fantasy, sure, but it's exceptionally written liberal fantasy), a spotless cast (Horrocks is downright brilliant throughout, while a set of supporting players, including Janet McTeer and Jodhi May, handle the subplots elegantly), and the decision to take the title character into increasingly darker corners as the series progresses. The further we get into her term as P.M., the more complex the stories become, as if Ros' initial naïveté gets washed away as she becomes more comfortable with the office.

By the time we reach the final episode, Ros is neck-deep in political intrigue, locked in an inescapable ethical quandary - to resign or not to resign? - that challenges our notions of the character, and her notions of herself.

Not-quite-a-spoiler alert: The series ends on a heavy note of ambiguity, with a key plot point withheld from the viewer. It's the perfect final note, really, as it allows us to project our own ideals onto the lead character, asking ourselves what we would do in the same situation, or, at least, asking what we're we so certain she would do.

Unfortunately, international releases of the series, including this DVD, tack on a text epilogue, explaining what happens to the characters - and promptly ruining the very ambiguity the series deserves. It's a pitiful move on the part of the BBC, done either to avoid the chance of a second series (the show's low ratings last fall virtually guaranteed the lack of a sequel) or out of some lame-brained notion that American audiences wouldn't know how to appreciate an open-ended finale. Or maybe both.


Acorn Media collects all six one-hour episodes of "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard" onto a two disc set. The discs come in two single-wide keepcases which are then housed in a single cardboard slipcover. The artwork showcases a fairly awful portrait of Horrocks as the title character - she does an amazing chameleon job in the role, and the publicity photo used for the slipcover art doesn't do her performance justice.

Video & Audio

The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and Dolby 2.0 soundtrack both come across as your typical modern BBC production - clean, clear, if fairly unimpressive. Grain pops up occasionally during nighttime sequences, but that's as close to an issue as we ever get. The stereo track makes solid use of the dialogue-heavy series. No subtitles or alternate tracks are provided.


Sadly, only a set of cast filmographies is included.

Final Thoughts

Set firmly and unashamedly in the land of fiction, "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard" is a fully engaging peek into the British political landscape, marked with terrific acting and highly memorable characters. Recommended to anyone who likes a little bit of wishful thinking with their political drama.