Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS

Rebecca Eaton, Patricia Mulcahy

Language: English

Pages: 244

ISBN: 2:00214844

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! reveals the secrets to Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and its other hit programs

For more than twenty-five years and counting, Rebecca Eaton has presided over PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, the longest running weekly prime time drama series in American history. From the runaway hits
Upstairs, Downstairs and The Buccaneers, to the hugely popular Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, and Poirot, Masterpiece Theatre and its sibling series Mystery! have been required viewing for fans of quality drama.

Eaton interviews many of the writers, directors, producers, and other contributors and shares personal anecdotes—including photos taken with her own camera—about her decades-spanning career. She reveals what went on behind the scenes during such triumphs as Cranford and the multiple, highly-rated programs made from Jane Austen's novels, as well as her aggressive campaign to attract younger viewers via social media and online streaming. Along the way she shares stories about actors and other luminaries such as Alistair Cooke, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe, whose first TV role was as the title character in David Copperfield.

Readers will also get to know Eaton on a personal level. With a childhood steeped in theater, an affinity for nineteenth century novels and culture, and an "accidental apprenticeship" with the BBC, Eaton was practically born to lead the Masterpiece and Mystery! franchises. Making Masterpiece marks the first time the driving force behind the enduring flagship show reveals all.

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positive, and I thought I felt a pulse: if audiences here and in the U.K. liked this kind of programming, why not propose another project? Emboldened by the success of our efforts to jump-start Middlemarch, I thought the moment had come to suggest that the BBC consider an American classic. A good place to start might be with American writers who were culturally situated somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: Henry James or Edith Wharton. We’d done Henry a few times; he can be quite a

earlier time, when arts philanthropy had dovetailed nicely with corporate branding. Now we were more or less just a “corporate account,” costing Mobil a mere (for them) $20 million a year. Pete Spina died in 1993, Fran Michaelman left, and we were passed from executive to executive, some of whom got more involved than others. Their involvement was sporadic and not particularly intrusive, although I remember one rather dramatic episode. In 1996 we’d co-produced The Fortunes and Misfortunes

Prince, our BBC co-production set just before the Great War, which tells the story of the royal family and its fragile, troubled son Prince John, had been nominated for Outstanding Miniseries. Its creator, Stephen Poliakoff, hated to fly, and none of the other British executives were interested in coming to this all-American awards ceremony. I was the pinch hitter drafted to accept the Emmy, in the very unlikely event that it would win. I’d bought a new skirt and talked Eddie into being my date.

our history. We think of them coming down the gangplank from their liners and marrying their viscounts and marquises and either making a success of it or not. But we don’t really think of them thirty years after that, sitting in Staffordshire and still trying to get decent plumbing. “By then, their younger sisters, for the most part, had married Americans and gone to live on Long Island. The fashion for becoming a European countess didn’t really survive the First War. Of course some of it

solid and reassuring presences who can set a mood or speak for the group. It helps that Jim can juggle and do magic tricks, and that Hugh has done comedy programs in the off-season. Elizabeth McGovern plays a part, Lady Grantham, that is arguably close to her own life. She grew up in America, married an Englishman, and moved to London, where she is raising two teenage daughters. “In playing Cora,” she says, “I draw from my experience as someone who has lived in England, has indoctrinated

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