Friday, March 21, 2014

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS (Book Review)

Author: Rebecca Eaton, with Patricia Mulcahy
Year: 2013
Genre: Television/Memoir
Reading Level: Adult

Summary: Part memoir, part behind-the-scenes look at the origins, development and history of Masterpiece Theatre, as told by longtime executive producer Rebecca Eaton.  Includes insights from such Masterpiece alums as Daniel Radcliffe, Gillian Anderson, Julian Fellowes and Kenneth Branagh. 

Red Flags: Some occasional language

My Rating: B
As a history of Masterpiece, I think this succeeds quite well.  Obviously Rebecca Eaton knows what she's talking about and she explains the business side of things clearly.  She's conversational, praises various successes and owns up to mistakes as well.  I do think it is rather silly that Downton Abbey gets the last three chapters.  I know that it's a BIG deal and I'm sure they wanted to entice readers with plenty of Downton talk, but if your book is about Masterpiece as a whole, let's be a little bit more balanced, okay?  She hardly even wrote anything in one of those chapters because it was all quotes from Downton people.  But anyway, I learned a lot about Masterpiece so in that way I can't complain.

As a memoir, I think this works only about halfway, mostly because she stops talking about her personal life for the second half of the book.  She did a fine job of interweaving the two branches up to that point so I'm not sure why she dropped it halfway.  In the first half she talks about the conflict of working and missing her daughter's childhood--did this extend to her teenage years?  What are her thoughts about it now that her daughter is grown?  She throws out at the very end that she's getting divorced--what were the origins of that decision?  It's not that I want to pry or be nosy (though I am nosy), but the autobiographical aspect felt incomplete.  Maybe she became a workaholic and consequently had no personal life?  

Memorable quotes:
"Watching mysteries on television provides a feeling that says all's right with the world; now at least one of life's unanswered questions is settled: that's who did it.
"Phyllis [P.D. James] says: 'The mystery is an affirmation of a moral law that murder is wrong but men are responsible for their own deeds; and however difficult the problem, there is a solution.  All this, I think, is rather comforting in an age of pessimism and anxiety.'"--p. 72

"...a good idea is only the beginning of a very long haul..."--p. 177

"'With drama, all the time, you're trying to think of tension.  I always say that one of the hardest things to dramatize is happiness.  That's why, in the old days, Hollywood films ended with the marriage and the kiss--because the drama was over.'"--Julian Fellowes, p. 238

"'I don't have time for writer's block; I just have to get on, because I've made so many commitments.  Sometimes you write stuff, and it doesn't seem any good, and you chuck it out; but you have to keep churning it out.  If you want to be a writer for your living, and you're not just working on your book in the attic, you have to be grown up about it and not wait until you're in the mood.  You can't afford that.  Usually, if you go for a walk, you can come back with an idea of where you go next.'"--Julian Fellowes, p. 253

No comments:

Post a Comment