- 3-Disc Set
- 50GB Blu-ray Discs
- 1080p/AVC MEPG-4
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- English SDH
- Behind-the-Scenes at Selfridge's
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Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge (Blu-ray)
PBS / 2013 / 480 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: April 23, 2013
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Reviewed by Aaron Peck
Monday, April 29, 2013
Jeremy Piven will always be remembered as the iconic Ari Gould. While I remember Ari's razor-sharp expletive-filled tirades from 'Entourage' with enormous fondness, it's hard to picture Piven doing anything else. Whenever I see him playing another character it's difficult for me to distance the character he's playing from the character he once was. So, when Piven dons a turn-of-the-century suit and struts around London as department store magnate Harry Selfridge, it's hard to take him seriously. Plus, I'm not sure how interesting running a department store really is.
I know that some of TV's most-watched shows have come from some pretty mundane ideas. On the surface a show about an ad agency in the '60s sounds quite boring, yet 'Mad Men' has amassed quite a following and earned tons of awards during its run. 'Magic City' is a show about the ins and outs of running a hotel in Miami. Sure a snarling, overacting Danny Huston adds some scenery chomping to the proceedings, but in reality we're watching a show about the finer points of hotel management.
Having watched some shows, which on the surface seemed like dreadfully boring ideas, I decided that I'd give the PBS/ITV Studios' 'Mr. Selfridge' a shot. The results, sadly, were muddled at best.
Harry Selfridge is a driven man. Hailing from America, Selfridge is adamant that he's going to be able to revamp the dreary London shopping district. A draconian place where customers are treated like cattle. Selfridge wants to make shopping not just a chore, but a destination. He wants to create a department store that people will come to from far and wide to sample the unusual and bizarre.
With grand visions and sweeping dreams, Selfridge moves his family to England, and gets to work building his first store. Only his English investor is apprehensive. Selfridge's business practices, which amount to grandiose speeches followed by exclamations about sparing no expense, are worrisome. After his investor pulls out, Selfridge finds himself in a precarious position. Hemorrhaging cash, Selfridge still must put on the face of a confident man. Piven does this with varying success.
Piven seems miscast. Every time Selfridge starts in on one of his speeches, there's a sense that Ari is inside, waiting to escape, but Piven visibly wrangles him back in. There's a sense that he's holding back since this isn't HBO. It's a noticeable, palpable feeling. Want to know what Ari Gould would've been like if he took anger management and it worked? That's Harry Selfridge.
By reigning in his natural tendency toward mania, Piven comes across flat and uninspiring. His lavish speeches hold little weight, because it's difficult to believe he's comfortable in Selfridge's shoes. Without an intriguing central character the entire show begins to crumble around him. None of the side characters have much interest. This isn't like 'Downton Abbey' where if you don't like one or two of the stories there are a half dozen other stories you can latch on to. It feels as if the show was built for and around Piven hoping he'd carry it to the finish line. Although, by restricting what Piven does best, 'Mr. Selfridge' never rises above its mundane roots of building and managing a department store. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a PBS release. 'Mr. Selfridge' is a mini-series that aired on Masterpiece Theater. It's a 3-disc set. There are 10 episodes in the season. The 50GB Blu-rays are packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a swinging hub in the middle to house two discs back to back. The set is marked as being Region A locked.
'Mr. Selfridge' more or less, has the same high-def look that 'Downton Abbey' possesses in seasons one and two. Its 1080p picture is clear and usually picturesque, offering up a good amount of detail, decent contrast, and healthy shadows.
Barring the occasional soft shot here and there, 'Mr. Selfridge' sports a competently detailed transfer. Close-ups feature quite a lot of facial detail. Piven's beard has excellent clarity. The period costumes are greatly enhanced by the HD microscope. Lace, leather, silk, and wool all appear as tangible material. Tiny pinstripes can be seen on suits, while intricate lace patterns on elaborate gowns are easily discernible.
Black areas, for the most part, appear satisfyingly dark. There are a few hazy moments peppered throughout the series. Some occasional banding and noise also exist in the darker gradients from time to time. But they're usually cases of here one second, gone the other. Overall, 'Mr. Selfridge' uses the extra clarity of high definition to its benefit. The video presentation will please any fan that picks it up.
'Mr. Selfridge' has been provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track. The stereo aspect gives the mix a little room to play with its surroundings, but not much. Instead the show's action is contained to the front two speakers, even though there are plenty of opportunities for a surround sound mix to give the show some much needed ambiance.
With that said, dialogue is always clear. Sound effects and the show's music don't feel overly confined. There's nothing that's really fighting too hard for attention. It all sounds well-mixed. I didn't feel as if any aspect of the show was being drowned out, or overridden by any other aspect. It's a congenial mix of sound, but it doesn't have anything that stands out about it.
- Behind-the-Scenes at Selfridge's (HD, 26 min.) - This is a straightforward talking heads look at the production of the show. Production staff discusses creating the show's look, while actors discuss their character's motivations.
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'Mr. Selfridge' is missing something. It feels hollow. There's a whole lot going on, but little actual drama to pull the viewer in. It's a lukewarm drama at best. To top it all off, Piven feels out of place here, like his basic instincts are being stifled by the stuffiness of the show. The video presentation looks great and the audio is satisfactory. In the end I'd say that 'Mr. Selfridge' is for fans only.
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