My wife and I just finished watching the miniseries Cranford on DVD. It is an excellent production. Anyone who has watched English dramas will recognize many of the actors, who are of the highest caliber. They include Judi Densch, Francesca Annis, Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton, and Simon Woods.
It is the story of a group of people in Victorian England who are trying to cope with modernism and progress. There is the young doctor who is trying to utilize modern technology while the older doctor is clearly not up to date. There are the folks who want to bring the railroad in and the folks who want to keep it out. There is the man who wants to educate indigent boys, and the woman who wants to educate girls. There is the pious spinster who tries to uphold traditional morals but finds that she must compromise at times.
There is a lot of death in Cranford, just as there was a lot of death in Victorian England. However, don’t let that dissuade you from watching. True, it tugs at your heart, but it can be good to have your heart tugged at a bit. In addition to death there are many other disappointments in this drama. In fact it is probably one of the saddest stories that I have ever watched over all.
However, life is not entirely depressing. Even though Cranford is not a comedy, and there is a lot of death in it, it is also full of humor. And it is fresh humor. I didn’t notice one old joke or one canned bit of business. The comedy arises from the funny foibles of the characters, who do not realize that they are funny and from the funny messes that they unwittingly create for themselves.
One of the best aspects of Cranford is that there are so many principal characters, and their story lines are interwoven in a very complicated web. In that way it depicts small-town life brilliantly. It also makes the story extremely stimulating menally and emotionally, as one must stay closely attuned to follow it. One doesn’t want to miss a single line of dialog or a single detail in the setting.
The details were very well researched. I did not spot a single anachronistic element–in the music, the architecture, the costumes, the literary references, the scientific material, or the language. It felt as though you really were transported to Cheshire in the 1840′s.
It’s probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but I found it well worth watching.