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."