TV Review: ‘Poldark’

Poldark Review on Masterpiece PBS
Courtesy of Mammoth Screen

Poldark” made a considerable splash with “Masterpiece” viewers in the mid-1970s, and those who remember — along with their more discriminating children — should find much to like in this sumptuous remake. Aidan Turner (of “Being Human” and “The Hobbit”) takes over the title role in this sweeping period drama, whose picturesque landscapes and glorious soundtrack will make many linger to book passage to Cornwall. Much in the vein of “Wuthering Heights,” the series mixes class distinctions and romance, offering the kind of classy soap that should help keep Anglophiles’ cockles happily warmed between now and more “Downton Abbey.”

Based on the books by Winston Graham, the eight-part series (half of which was previewed) introduces Turner’s Captain Ross Poldark in the wilds of Virginia in 1781, sporting a red coat and battling the Americans. Flash forward two years, and he’s back in his native Cornwall, sporting a wicked scar that somehow only renders him more dashing, and eager to reunite with the lovely Elizabeth (Heida Reed).

Alas, Elizabeth, having assumed he was killed in battle, has, with prodding from her parents, moved on, and a stricken Ross finds her engaged to his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller), who is clearly half the man he is — a fact hardly lost on Francis’ father, Charles (Warren Clarke). So with Ross’ inheritance having evaporated, and his own father’s estate in tatters, his uncle encourages the lad to seek his fortune elsewhere. “What possible reason is there to stay?” he asks.

Quite a lot, as it turns out, and not just because of the gorgeous photography (by Cinders Forshaw) and Anne Dudley’s haunting, wonderfully romantic score. For starters, Ross seeks to bring on old copper mine back to life, which will potentially employ plenty of needy workers, but which also puts him in conflict with the ruthless bankers who lord over the county. Then there’s the little matter of rescuing miner’s daughter Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson, last seen sporting period frocks in “Death Comes to Pemberley”), from her abusive father, which eventually leads to the gossip and threat of scandal the upper classes so dread.

Adapted by Debbie Horsfield and directed by Ed Bazalgette and William McGregor, “Poldark” even throws in a nod to the original by casting its star, Robin Ellis, in a minor role. While this is extremely familiar territory for “Masterpiece,” it’s still the kind of fix fans of such fare can find only sparingly, even with the heady proliferation of British drama now reaching U.S. shores via content-hungry networks and streaming services.

Turner brings the necessary swoon-worthy qualities to the emotionally wounded lead (who knew there were ab exercises back in the 18th century?), but the cast is uniformly good, including Ruby Bentall as Ross’ cousin and Phil Davis and Beatie Edney as his father’s servants, who Ross keeps around even though they don’t do much work.

Even the preoccupation with mining, as it turns out, seems rather appropriate. Because for anyone thinking the genre was beginning to be played out, “Masterpiece” has once again dug into its vault, and unearthed another gem.

TV Review: 'Poldark'

(Series; PBS, Sun. June 21, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Cornwall by Mammoth Screen for Masterpiece and BBC.

Crew

Executive producers, Debbie Horsfield, Karen Thrussell, Damien Timmer, Rebecca Eaton, Polly Hill; producer, Eliza Mellor; directors, Ed Bazalgette, William McGregor; writer, Horsfield; based on the novels by Winston Graham; camera, Cinders Forshaw; production designer, Catrin Meredydd; editor, Adam Recht; music, Anne Dudley; casting, Susie Parriss. 60 MIN.

Cast

Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Heida Reed, Warren Clarke, Ruby Bentall, Kyle Soller, Phil Davis, Beatie Edney, Jack Farthing

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  1. Kathryn says:

    I loved the original with Robin Ellis. The remake is very good in many ways except for the overly-developed muscles that Aidan Turner shows in one scene If this is his normal physique, it should have stayed under wraps. One BIG flaw is some of the makeup on the actresses–lipstick and eyebrow-grooming that is totally out of keeping with the time period. I find it completely distracting, and it puts a dent in an otherwise beautifully-photographed piece. Oh, and Demelza’s curtsy is exaggeratedly clumsy to the point of slapstick.

  2. linnel01 says:

    I loved the first Poldark. Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees were superb (I still love them and watch the older version of Poldark. I had my reservations that the revival could hold a candle to it. It was a different depiction of the story and the production was definitely a product of the seventies.
    However, I also agree with a statement Mr. Ellis made about the revival where he stated that the Poldark saga was in need of a shakeup.

    Do we have to pick a favorite? They’re both great productions.

    I absolutely love this new and very polished version of the story. The scenery is suptuous. The writing, characterizations, and acting provided by the incredible cast makes this a show one that I look forward to every Sunday evening.

    This show has a lot of heart.

    Bravo to the entire ensemble but shoutouts to the principles: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Kyle Soller, Heida Reed, and Ruby Bentall!!!

  3. Starwithgold says:

    Wow. I watched the first two episodes and their acting is no cheap.! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 even if you compare it cw’s dumb shows. It’s nothing like it. 💋✌🏼️

  4. Simon says:

    A pale imitation, it lacks the substance of the book or original version of Poldark. Everyone looks too healthy and clean, the commentary on class warfare is absent. Adrian looks like a hobbit next to Robin Ellis, the original actor. Judd and Pruddy, what a disappointment. A lacklustre effort, what a shame

    • Starwithgold says:

      Yah, so you read the book but stuff like that are made to entertain people like me not just you.if u want something much more than that produced your own

  5. annie l says:

    Poldark is perfect the romantic historical drama. Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are amazing! In fact the whole production simply sumptuous.

  6. Miranda says:

    Seen both, and The Crimson Field is far superior.. An important and unusual story to be told of women in wartime, but well balance with stories of surgeons and soldiers. It’s sad PBS just promoted Poldark right now. TCF airs following Poldark, don’t miss it.

    • Avery says:

      I’ve seen both too, and I disagree. The Crimson Field quickly sank into soap-style melodrama. The villains were too predictable, and because BBC bailed so quickly, viewers will never get to see the rest of the story. I can’t blame PBS for putting their promotion dollars into Poldark rather than TCF; Poldark will be around for a few more seasons and TCF will be forgotten.

  7. Wonderful adaptation. Great casting.

  8. Anne says:

    Such a wonderful production and particularly great casting all around, but the two leads are special. Wonderful story to find one’s self lost in.

  9. therealeverton says:

    This is a fantastic show, catch it if you can.

    • Margo says:

      I’m enjoying BOTH Poldark and The Crimson Field. The scenic backdrops in Poldark are gorgeous, the acting is first-rate, and the story is intensely captivating. I like the gritty realism of The Crimson Field. Too bad they’ll be cancelling that show after just one season.

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