|From The Guardian.|
Cranford might just win a competition of TV Series With the Most British Actors That You've Seen In Other Things Crammed In, Ever. There's Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Andrew Buchan, Claudie Blakley, Simon Woods. Tom Hiddleston appears in the Christmas special, along with Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Dockery, and Tim Curry.
Based on novellas and short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell (which you can buy cheaply via Kindle), Cranford is about the comings and goings and characters in a small Northern English village, some twenty miles from Manchester, in the 1840s. The Industrial Revolution hums along in the background of this series--the railroad's approach toward Cranford is a big deal throughout--but the village itself continues on as it has for centuries, most likely. Like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell was writing about familiar surroundings and about her own time.
The main characters and householders in Cranford are women--the Jenkyns sisters (Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench, Miss Pole (played by a hilarious Imelda Staunton), the Tomkinson sisters, Mrs. Forrester, and Mrs. Jamieson. They are friends; they support each other, they love and argue and fight with each other, and they gossip. A lot.
I have three characters in my novel who gossip about the other villagers a lot. I based them off of the Cranford ladies.
Episode one begins with the arrival of Miss Mary Smith in Cranford. Mary is happy to leave her overbearing stepmother behind in Manchester and stay with the Jenkyns sisters. Mary's mother was from Cranford.
A new, young doctor from London arrives in town around the same time. He is taking over from Dr. Morgan's place. From here, we meet all strata of this little town's society, which is what I think I like best about the series. We meet Lady Ludlow, a marchioness on her estate outside of Cranford, and her estate agent, Mr. Carter; to the magistrate, Sir Charles Maulver; to the middle class ladies; to Mr. Brown, a former soldier who must work for a living; to the rector and his family; the shopkeepers and the town carpenter, who is courting the Jenkyns' sisters' maid, all the way to the destitute Gregson family.
Cranford is slice-of-life in 1840s rather than a history lesson or a period costume drama. It's a window into this small village and its citizens and a heart-warming story all around.
Behind the Scenes of the Cranford Christmas Special