11/03/2013 00:57 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

Mr Selfridge finale: Jeremy Piven drama bows out on a soapy note

TV review: ITV drama Mr Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven, ends its first series with a royal visitor.

Jeremy Piven as Mr Selfridge (© Jeremy Piven as Mr Selfridge. Image. ITV)


ITV's period drama based on the life of actual US retail magnate Mr Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) comes to the end of its 10-week run, with an episode involving a royal visitor and a surprising trip to the theatre...


The most memorable moment was seeing Mr Selfridge, his wife Rose (Frances O'Connor), and benefactor Lady Mae (former Coronation Street star Katherine Kelly) realise the comedy play they'd gone to see was full of broad caricatures based on them...


Maybe it's just me, but I found it hard to care about French window-dresser Henri (Grégory Fitoussi) leaving the store for New York.

Full review

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't been watching Mr Selfridge with enough regularity to understand everything that was happening in this finale.

I knew the show was well-produced and frothily entertaining in its first two episodes.

"I wasn't a fan of Jeremy Piven's hammy performance."

But it also felt incredibly inessential and I wasn't a fan of Jeremy Piven's hammy performance among a cast of Brits playing their own roles with a great deal more subtlety.

However, that wasn't a barrier to enjoying the majority of the current series' finale.

There's a breezily enjoyable tone to Mr Selfridge that sweeps you along rather nicely, even when you're not terribly gripped by what's happening, or care about many of the characters.

The whole concept of the show remains somewhat undermined by the fact Mr Selfridge's successes and failures are preordained because he's a historical figure which, to my mind, robs the show of drama.

Mr Selfridge entertains

I'm not a scholar of the life and work of Harry Selfridge, but Jeremy Piven himself outlined the character's life story during his promotional tour, so the show itself is just filling in gaps.

I consequently can't get excited or invested in Selfridge's highs and lows, because I know where his tragic story ultimately ends.

Consequently, there's a safety to the show I wish wasn't there.

Why the writers didn't just take inspiration from Selfridge and create a fictional department store tycoon, I can't fathom.

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The only thing benefitting from Mr Selfridge's ties to reality are British department stores; Debenhams reported a boost in glove sales when the show featured a red leather pair. Yes, Debenhams - not Selfridges.

This 10th episode was largely on par with what I've seen previously, only now the show has used its time to craft more characters and have them form relationships.

But it's still ultimately the story of Mr Selfridge doing his utmost to promote his store and make it flourish, while his marriage disintegrates because he's an unfaithful cad.

It all came to a head in this episode, with the store playing host to an after-hours visit from King Edward VII himself, while Rose decides there's very little point in living a lie any longer.

Mr Selfridge is undeniably a perfect fit for Sunday evenings. It's undemanding, spritely, and soap-like in its narrative worth.

There's nothing here to surprise viewers who like their dramas more demanding, but the Downton Abbey audience should find it a pleasant stopgap.

If only its dialogue was as sharp and the characters as absorbing, but maybe the second series will pull things together.

All in all, an enjoyable if unexceptional finale to a series ITV's keen to continue making, despite it losing some of the 7.5 million overnight viewers it started with back in January.

  • Verdict: A pleasant and undemanding way to spend a Sunday evening.

    Star grade

What other reviewers said

The Telegraph - "Mr Selfridge has certainly been slicker and more exciting than The Paradise."

The Arts Desk - "Frocks alone do not a drama make."

What people on Twitter said

@hayleyymartinn - "What am I actually supposed to watch on a Sunday night now Mr Selfridge is over?"

@thedorothydays - "Mr Selfridge was a sad episode tonight and can't believe the first series is now over!!"

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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