Category Archives: TV

Amazing Women: Rosa Lewis … and her doppleganger, Louisa Trotter

Rosa Lewis was a real person, and a rather incredible one at that. She was born in 1867 in London and rose from somewhat a somewhat humble background

After leaving school at 12 and becoming a general servant,she worked her way up through the hierarchy of domestic service eventually running the kitchens of the Duc d’Orleans at Sandhurst.

And she became rather famous for her cooking skills.

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There is more

It was through her cooking that Rosa was linked to Edward VII. He so adored her food that tactful society hostesses employed her when entertaining him for over 20 years, making her services the height of fashion.

She married and in 1902 purchased the Cavendish Hotel, a focal point for aristocratic dalliances and partying. Rosa became known as the Duchess of Jermyn Street.

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Ah, the Edwardian period!

With the outbreak of WW1, society entertaining came to an end and Rosa turned her attentions to welcoming impoverished military officers to the Cavendish. Her kind and tolerant nature never allowed them to pay and with her tactics of allowing rich guests to cover the costs of the poor, she managed to continue these charitable efforts until her death.

The Edwardian Period may have been over, but Louisa never left its values and routines behind. She remained for years and years, the grand lady of Jermyn Street.Indeed, the father of an American friend of mine told me his story of how he was lucky enough to have a short conversation with her. This painting of her might give you a hint why

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Paradoxically, Rosa herself had a hand in the creation of the false identity. No innocent to the process of publicity, her idiosyncrasies, bad language, extrovert behavior, ‘Cockney sparrow’ approach were all a deliberate device of hers to invent a personality. They constituted a recipe that almost, but not quite, eclipsed the real Rosa.

In other words, Rosa was quite the character! She passed on in 1952, and her life story became a thing of legend.

The legend was picked up by able story tellers(including the renowned John Hawksworth) who fashioned it into a TV series called “The Duchess of Duke Street”. Rosa — not exactly the historical Rosa but loosely based on her l— became Louisa Trotter, played by Gemma Jones.  The show ran in the 1970’s became a hit in the US in the PBS Masterpiece Theater series.

What was so special about it? Like Upstairs Downstairs (another Hawksworth effort). each episode of the show captures a slightly different dimension of  the mood of the times in London at a period just before what we would call “modern”. And as in Upstairs Downstairs, the first World War proves to be a major pivot.

This nice video montage profiles the various escapades that Louisa Trotter finds herself in and I think capture some of the spirit of the thing. Enjoy!

The Alienist: What! No Pickles???

The Alienist TV series has gotten pretty good reviews. Here is a squib from NYT

A heady thrill ride with rich characters and an atmospheric Gilded Age New York setting, “The Alienist” begged for a Hollywood adaptation, and movie rights were sold for half a million dollars before the book was even published. But the intricate mystery proved too dense to distill into a satisfying film

From The Mary Sue

The first two episodes of The Alienist were extremely promising. In terms of the depth of its look, feel, and acting, it’s hard to think of anything comparable that’s currently on television. I can’t wait to see where it takes us, although I’m certain that some scenes will make us want to avert our eyes. It’s a good thing the show’s protagonists are so unflinching.

From The Collider

The Alienist is an incredibly ambitious series for TNT, and unlike anything else the Turner network has ever aired. It has a prestige TV feel, and a cinematic appeal, but it’s not yet firing on all cylinders. Throughout its first two episodes, the series hints at many things: the ambitions of an alienist; the monstrous nature of the murderer; the construction and corruption of late-19th century New York; and a show that will continue to improve as it explores the depths not only of its willing amateur investigators, but the depravity of the one they hunt.

One thing is certain, its recreation of the New York dining scene of the 1890’s is over the top.

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Saveur’s Kara Newman interviews Alia Akkam about how this was achieved.

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Here is a tidbit

One of the biggest challenges focusing solely on 1896 is that many of the foods we assume were available then, weren’t. When we were discussing including a display of pickles, I found out that it wasn’t until 1897 that the first pickle vendor arrived on the Lower East Side. If an Italian immigrant wanted pasta in their home then, they couldn’t buy a cheap box of Ronzoni, so what did they do? Making it at home would have been the most economical.

No pickles? No Ronzoni? How did they manage?

The Secret Sauce of Steven King’s Story Telling

King, of course, is hugely popular as a writer. And yet, as Todd Vanderwerff points out for Vox, this rarel,y translates into great adaptations in film.

Why not? Todd argues thta the adaptations tend to skimp on a key component of King’s stories — the build up of a friendly locality. Audiences need to be lured into liking the setting (a small town, for example) before they will react to a threat to it.

Very interesting point. And a new TV series based on a King sotry, Mr. Mercedes may be getting this right!

Enjoy!

TV: Good Neighbors is the Best!

Years ago, I took Good Neighbors for granted. I thought it was funny, but nothing special. Now when I watch it again, I realize how foolish I was. It was indeed a great show! “The Mutiny” is one of my favorite episodes. Jerry (one of the neighbors) gets into a tiff with his boss. Tom (the other neighbor) tries to help out. And in the midst of it all, Jerry’s wife has the lead in the town’s play. enjoy!