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Mr Selfridge Lead writer Kate Brooke Reveals what the third season has in store




Mr Selfridge is back! It’s wonderful to have been the lead writer on another series of the show. In this third season we are taking our characters down surprising avenues, exploring darker situations for them.

It’s 1919 and the whole of England – including the Selfridge family and the store employees – are searching for ways to recover from the devastation of the Great War. Everyone has lost somebody; everyone has suffered change. How do you move on from such a cataclysmic event? How do you look forward and get on with your life?

Harry Selfridge, reeling from a personal grief, will make many mistakes over the ten episodes of this series. He will sew the seeds of his own downfall. Selfridges, the store, is still shining bright on Oxford Street today, but the Selfridge family is no longer at the helm. How did one man create such a magnificent store and then lose it? It seems like the harder Harry tries, the more he puts himself at risk. Looking for ways to maintain the Selfridge family legacy, and at the same time to help the country recover from War, he unwittingly makes himself vulnerable.

And he has enemies, both seen and unseen.

Lord Loxley is back in town. He’s made a fortune, but he’s lost his most prized possession, Lady Mae. Loxley blames Harry and the battle between the two men rages over the boardroom table, as Loxley accrues shares and tries to oust Harry as Chairman of the store.

Harry is also in trouble on the home front. His eldest daughter Rosalie has married the son of a Russian Emigree Princess. Serge wants to exploit his new family connections and his penniless mother, Princess Marie, is keen to get her hands on Selfridge money. But the real problems kick in when Loxley and Serge team up against Harry…

Our store characters are facing challenges as well: Accommodating the men coming back from War, both at home and in the shop, is extremely difficult. Many of them, disabled and injured, are now unfit for work. They resent the women who have taken their jobs. On a more intimate level, tensions are at breaking point between couples. Agnes struggles to understand a traumatised Henri; Doris is hiding a terrible secret from Mr Grove; Miss Mardle must adjust to the realisation that she is alone again.

But the human spirit is naturally optimistic, and in the face of all these problems, there’s only one thing to do… dress up, go out and dance! London has become a party City and Harry’s daughter, Violette, symbolises the restless age, out all night dancing until she drops. Harry, as always, takes the pulse of the moment, inviting French designers to show their couture dresses at the store, and launching a huge Beauty promotion from the Selfridges roof garden. Victor has also seen his chance, setting up a glamorous night club, and hiring a Dixieland band. If they’re not dancing, our characters are flying in aeroplanes or driving motor cars at speed. They’re reaching out for excitement, they’re breaking new boundaries.

Writing and storylining the third series of Mr Selfridge, I wanted it to be a frenetic ride, full of muscular story and energy. Gone is the understated elegance of the Edwardian era. We’re on the cusp of the ‘Twenties and I hope the roar will resonate in your ears.

Mr Selfridge stars Jeremy Piven and season three begins on ITV Sunday 25 January.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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