In the United States, as Downton Abbey is a PBS powerhouse, steaming through with its period era costumes and drama, the Jeremy Piven-led drama Mr Selfridge has been a bit more quiet and flown under the radar on public television. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, in this case, it might be reflective of something deeper. Nevertheless, the television drama based on American salesman Harry Selfridge and his London department store have returned for a second season. And there are some surprises.
When the second season picks up, it’s five years after the first season’s finale. All of the employees in the store have been promoted to new positions, generally managing their respective areas. But it’s star employee Agnes (Aisling Loftus) who is freshly back from Paris, where she’s spent the years studying and furthering her experience as a window designer and dresser. Also fresh on the scene is Lady Mae’s previously MIA husband and it’s clear he’s there to cause trouble. Noticeably absent, however, are Selfridge’s family, who left as Harry’s adultery became public, as well as Harry’s French right-hand-man Henri (Grégory Fitoussi), who had left to pursue a former girlfriend after a love affair with Agnes.
As the show’s premiere season focused on Harry’s affair, the store’s start up and Agnes’ rising star, the second season has new challenges. Harry’s wife Rose isn’t happy in her marriage, Agnes and Victor’s relationship is on uneven footing as she returns from years abroad and new characters like Lord Loxley and notorious socialite/businesswoman Delphine Day are there to mix things up. Also on the horizon: World War I.
Visually, Mr Selfridge is lovely. The make-up and costumes are enviable even on those characters who aren’t wealthy and glamorous while the department store setting offers plenty of eye candy — it makes Are You Being Served? look like a dingy dive. But the storylines are uninspiring. Season two of Mr Selfridge is entertaining, sure, but the convenient and predictable Hollywood-type ending disappoints and the season-ending cliffhangers are more like speed bumps than cliffhangers.
Photo courtesy ITV