Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Reality television has hit PBS and I'm afraid I'm hooked. I saw a glimpse of "The Manor House" on Sunday night, but I was working on my paper so I only watched a bit while I was eating dinner. It came on again last night and I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch. Basically, the premise of the show is that there is a family with 12 servants who are living as if it were Edwardian times. I find it fascinating. Here they are, in the middle of 2003, with modern-day ideals, forced to regress 100 years. What's even more interesting is just how immersed these people are in Edwardian culture and how they follow "the rules" (which frankly, sound stifling to me). I dig history and this is by PBS, so I find it very accurate and interesting.

The family and servants are in the house for three months. They dress (BTW, the ladies' underwear? Ugh) and eat and act exactly the way they would have back in Edwardian times. There is a true sense of "upstairs" and "downstairs." There was one part that amazed where "Lady Oliff-Cooper" went to the kitchen for the first time -- she didn't even know where it was! How... odd. And then the chef made a pig's head for dinner and really, that was rather grotesque and the family was unable to eat it. And of course, the endless work - the scullery maid makes her own soap (which is a rather interesting recipe that works, but I'm all about the grocery store).

What's interesting is how Sir Oliff-Cooper is enforcing strict Edwardian rules in the house but then wants to make changes to go along with modern day life, such as asking for a modern diet rather than nearly-rotten meat smothered in cream and butter or pulverized fruit and vegetables. So, then the chef served up the aforementioned pig's head, which made Sir Oliff-Cooper all upset with his butler. I felt bad for the butler - he was really trying his best to serve and he looked close to tears when he got reprimended by Sir Oliff-Cooper. In addition, the lady's maid to Lady Oliff-Cooper reported back to Lady Oliff-Cooper about the 'lower' servants' bad behavior and of course, then everyone was all upset at Morrison for saying something in the first place. And then of course, the longer the family stays in the house, the more autocratic and snotty they get. Sir Oliff-Cooper is especially bad.

The dynamics of this show are really interesting to me. A bit of it was touched upon in "Gosford Park," but this is so much more interesting and clear than "Gosford Park." So if you get "The Manor House," do check it out. It's a bit slow and not at all sleazy like the regular reality shows. The accents can be hard to understand, so I put on the closed captioning and it worked out just beautifully.

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