Everyone loves the new Poldark.
Me? Not so much. Tonight the series premiered in the U.S.
Initially I was distracted by the fashion model-beauty of the actors.
Their looks are so angular.
It is what we call at our house the Dancing with the Stars effect. Actors must work out and be buff. We expect Poldark (Aidan Turner) to rip off his shirt any minute. And, indeed, Turner does so in the second episode. (The British press already “covered” this event.)
It is not that I object to looking at beautiful people, but the softer, more natural looks of the 1970s are easier on the eye. Robin Ellis (the original Poldark) was dashing, but looked real: his skin had a few acne scars, as well as Poldark’s war scar. We remember Angharad Rees (Demelza) for her charm rather than her beauty. Only Elizabeth (Jill Townsend, an actress I very much admire) had that neurotic, angular look. In other words, we all could have been Ross or Demelza when we were young.
To get ready for the new TV series, I reread Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, the first in his 12-book series. Very well-written, very well-plotted. Ross returns from the Revolutionary War (fighting on the losing British side) to troubles at his home in Cornwall. His father is dead, his girlfriend Elizabeth is engaged to his cousin Francis, his house is in a shambles, and he has no money. He is a radical, a champion of the miners, and works hard for justice. In one of the most memorable scenes, he rescues a boy (actually Demelza dressed in boys’ clothes) at the market, where she is struggling to untie her dog’s tail from a cat’s, which a group of coarse boys has done. He discovers she is hungry and has been beaten by her father. Then he hires her as a maid. Years later, he marries her.
In the mid-70s, I galloped through the first six Poldark books, because I was so hooked on the TV series. One could buy the paperbacks at Kresge’s. The novels are very good: top-of-the-line pop fiction. Six more books were published after my Poldark madness.
There are many plot changes in the new TV series: In Episode One, Elizabeth chases after Ross in almost every scene, though in the book she is initially contented with Francis. (It has, after all, been three years since their boy-and-girl romance.) I was especially surprised when she showed up at the market and witnessed Ross’s saving Demelza. Not in the books!
The second half hour tonight was better than the first, and I would have enjoyed the whole hour if I were still a young thing. But is it as good as the original series? I cannot say. I watched the original on DVD about 10 years ago, and loved it. The original Poldark series was 29 episodes, and this one is eight episodes. Perhaps they’ll make a sequel.
I am not a big fan of costume dramas anymore, though the BBC introduced me to so many great books when I was young. I
Well, I’ll tune in next week, and perhaps I’ll enjoy the second episode more than the first. I have now adjusted to the new actors.