London, 1928. Nine years have passed and Harry Selfridge is at the pinnacle of his wealth and celebrity and enjoying the frenzy of the roaring 20s. But in this buzzing, fast-evolving world, Harry is splashing his cash in an unprecedented, dangerous way. As he parties and gambles with stage stars, the Dolly Sisters, and pursues risky new business ventures, the trials and tribulations of our other much loved characters, and a handful of newcomers, also unfold. Lady Mae returns to London to rebuild her life whilst Mardle and Grove thrash out their differences, and Kitty and Frank embark on the biggest challenge to their relationship yet. This final series chronicles Harry’s epic rollercoaster ride as he begins to lose grip on his empire, alongside the fortunes of all those whose lives he has touched.
Prestige dramas are a tricky business, as they reach out to hook an audience and whisk them away on what is hopefully a grand adventure with incredible production designs. The trouble with a number of shows along the lines of 'Call the Midwife,' 'Downton Abbey,' and 'Grantchester' among countless others is that the incredible production design and the intricate costuming created to transport the viewer to a bygone age can create something of a hollow feeling show. While the program is trying to impress the audience with its grand scope, it can forget to hook them with relatable and interesting characters. Such was the fate of 'Mr. Selfridge.' for four seasons. While it stands as an impressive undertaking, the show stumbled for three seasons with uneven plotting and thin characters, and sadly, things did not improve for 'Mr. Selfridge Season 4.'
It's been 9 long years since we last saw Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) be jilted out of a second chance at true love by the charlatan Nancy Webb. In that time, Selfridge's has grown and prospered into a thriving metropolis of retail commerce. Mr. Crabb (Ron Cook) is content with the books. Mr. Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill) is pleased with the day to day workings of the various departments. Kitty Hawkins (Amy Beth Hayes) has made sure the various ladies departments under her oversight are in tiptop shape. So what could be wrong? It turns out lots of things.
Harry is in a poor state ever since his wife Rose died from influenza and his engagement to the conniving Miss. Webb ended in embarrassment. Harry has thrown himself into his worst vices, staying out late, drinking too much, cavorting in affairs with various debutants, and worst of all - gambling away large sums of money. As his debts grow, so do the pressures pressing his retail empire. Even with the roaring 20s in full swing, even Selfridge's isn't immune from some outside competition. When his old friend Mae Rennard (Katherine Kelly) turns up looking to cash out her stakes in the store, Harry sees an opportunity to use her expertise in French fashions to radically transform Selfridge's. However, this bet may be too risky for even the charming and mighty Harry Selfridge to place. Especially when the futures of his family and his retail empire hang in the balance.
As a show moves from one season to the next, there is a hope that things will get better. It's understandable for a show to have a rocky start, but the idea is once the cast and writers find their footing, any serious wrinkles will get ironed out over time. Sadly, that was never the case for 'Mr. Selfridge.' While the show certainly maintained a beautiful production design with immaculate costuming, the sum of its whole shows that it was little more than pageantry. The cast was just too large and unwieldy as it tried to give every single person their own arch. The stories were too thin to support any genuine drama. And worst of all, a very talented cast of impressive actors ultimately went to waste.
At the center of the show was star Jeromy Piven as the legendary retail tycoon, Harry Selfridge. As I stated in my review for 'Season 3,' I was never really pulled in by his performance. He was very one note throughout the first three seasons either being gregarious or solemn with little range in between t make him feel like a real character. I was hopeful that this would change with Season 4, and to an extent it did. Harry finally feels like a conflicted character, a brilliant man who knows right from wrong, but can't keep his own ego in check long enough to chart a course for the clear path. Unfortunately, Piven is cast entirely too young to be a convincing Harry Selfridge of 1928. By 1928, the real-life Harry Selfridge was celebrating his 70th birthday. At best, Piven passes for someone in their early 50s - which he is. And that is perhaps the signifier of the series as a whole. Nobody in this impressive lineup of actors seems to age and as a result, their characters never seem to grow.
When a show comes to a close after a years-long journey such as the one 'Mr. Selfridge' enjoyed, there should be a sense of change and growth in the characters. Some end better than when they started, others wind up worse for their efforts. It's a natural course of life that entertainment like this should at least make an attempt to reflect. Other than a couple of character deaths, each season of 'Mr. Selfridge' is relatively indistinguishable from one to the next. Maybe the fashions change a little, and perhaps they touch on some relevant time period landmarks, but ultimately, this show just didn't go anywhere. Which is tragic in its own way because this easily could have been something great and worth investing the time in. I'm not necessarily disappointed that I worked my way through all four seasons of 'Mr. Selfridge,' but I'm not exactly happy that I did so either. I think the worst thing that I can say about this show is that if I hadn't ever seen a single episode, I wouldn't have missed anything. I know this is a show with its ardent fans, I simply do not count myself among them. Much how 'Mr. Selfridge' started and now that it has reached its end, I find myself in a dull state of indifference.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Mr. Selfridge Season 4' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of PBS. All ten episodes are pressed onto three Region A BD50 discs. Each disc opens with a static image main menu with standard navigation options. The three discs come housed in a standard three-disc Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork with each disc getting its own cradle to occupy. Also included inside the case is a slip advertising other PBS Blu-ray releases. All special features are found on Disc 3.
One thing that has stayed constant with 'Mr. Selfridge' is the immaculate and impressive video quality, and 'Season 4' is no exception. Again presented in 1.78:1 1080i, the show is grand in its production design, intricate in its costuming, and the camera eats it up. There is a ton of detail to soak in from the individual stitches on character's clothing and the amazing gown work to recreate the flapper girl look of the late 1920s. CGI elements continue to blend in seamlessly with the show enabling the creators to present an image that looks and feels real and alive. Colors skew towards the brown/yellow earthy tones in order to capture that old time feeling, while allowing for some fun and poppy colors to come through with the change in styles and clothing. Primaries are subdued but still present and pop when and where necessary. Black levels are deep and inky giving the image a pleasing three-dimensional presence to it. This time around there doesn't appear to be any notable crush issues as there is plenty of shadow separation to keep the darkly clothed characters from appearing as floating heads. Free of any notable compression artifacts of any kind, this is a stunning presentation.
Each episode of 'Mr. Selfridge Season 4' is given an intricate and impressive DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix. As I mentioned in my review for 'Season 3,' I continue to be amazed that this show is able to get such a notable sense of space, dimension, and imaging from just a simple stereo mix. This is such a fluid show with tons of movement, that it becomes easy to miss the quality of the mix when the show quiets down and allows two characters to share a conversation in a small room. Dialogue is front and center, clean and clear throughout each episode. The score is rich but never overpowers any given scene. Sound effects have plenty of presence and sound natural and lively. Levels are well balanced without any need to adjust the volume once you have it set at a comfortable level. All around there is little if anything to fault the audio presentation for.
The Making of 'Mister Selfridge': (HD 5:57) A very brief look at what goes into shooting on the sets that were built for the show.
The Rise and Fall of Harry Selfridge: (HD 3:38) An entirely short, very EPK, look at the life of Harry Selfridge. It's not very comprehensive, it's mostly focused on the events of the series rather than the full events of his life.
The Ladies of Selfridges: (HD 3:36) A very quick look at all of the women that the real life Harry Selfridge either wooed or worked with.
Interview With Jeremy Piven: (HD 6:30) It's a great interview with Piven, you can tell he's very invested in the role and is trying to make the show something great.
With 'Mr. Selfridge Season 4,' another premier costume drama has come and gone. While I wasn't a big fan of the show, I could appreciate the work that went into it to recreate an era that has long since passed. It was a valiant effort, but for me, the drama of the American retail tycoon who took London by storm with his radical department store design, his ideas for proper customer service, and his lavish spending never equaled the pretty and intricately costumed spectacle on display. It could well have been a fantastic show, but it never quite hit the mark. PBS has brought 'Mr. Selfridge Season 4' to Blu-ray in fine order featuring a stunning video transfer with a wonderful audio mix for each episode. Extra features are sadly very skimpy and aren't too informative for such a lavishly designed show. At this point, you're either fully on board with 'Mr. Selfridge' or you're not, this final season won't be wooing any new viewers making it one for the fans.