×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Home Fires’

With:
Samantha Bond, Francesca Annis, Ed Stoppard, Ruth Gemmell, Claire Rushbrook, Frances Grey, Clare Calbraith, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Leila Mimmack, Claire Price, Fenella Woolgar, Leanne Best, Daisy Badger, Mark Bazeley, Mark Bonnar, Mike Noble, Daniel Ryan, Chris Coghill

The embers from World War II burn so brightly that there are an endless number of ways to revisit it. So even if “Home Fires” is the “Masterpiece” equivalent of “small ball” — similar in tone and look to, say, “Call the Midwife” — the outbreak of the war, against the backdrop of a small British village, provides an extremely fertile environment for soapy doings. Although the spine of the maiden six-episode run deals with the Women’s Institute, and its members finding their roles on the home front, that’s merely the hook, which, like many of these productions, methodically reels you in.

The central and showiest struggle pits the amiable but strong-willed Frances Barden (“Downton Abbey’s” Samantha Bond) against Joyce Cameron (Francesca Annis), a classic upper-crust snob, accustomed to running roughshod over the women who pass through her orbit in the bustling hamlet of Great Paxford. Yet as the story begins in August 1939, tensions are running high, and Frances, eager to use the institute in ways that will support the war effort, manages to politically outflank Joyce, whose influence nevertheless remains formidable.

How the women will help, of course, is only one thread in a dense latticework that includes a local doctor (“Upstairs Downstairs’ ” Ed Stoppard) and his family; an abusive husband; a mother positively devastated at the thought of her son going off to war; a new teacher hiding a secret; and sundry romances, illicit or otherwise, all magnified by the threat of bombs raining down as months pass and Great Britain enters the fray.

If it’s all rather familiar (the material is adapted by Simon Block from a book by Julie Summers), it’s nevertheless beautifully played, and notable for how unglamorous everyone looks, in a way that you would seldom see in an American production. As the stakes rise, so does the intrigue, from a bookkeeper coerced into covering up war profiteering to a conscientious objector whose unwillingness to fight leads him to be labeled a coward and shunned by those fearing for sons and husbands in harm’s way.

Looking ahead, “Home Fires” — which will lead into another handsome and more showily ambitious period piece, “Indian Summers” — also ends on a moment of such grace and quiet power that it could easily function as an ending, while setting the stage for future seasons to come. The war, after all, dragged on six years, and it’s not farfetched to see this series doing the same.

Unlike the Brits who stood on the front lines and behind them during this period, “Home Fires” might not be “Masterpiece’s” finest hour. But all things being equal, it’s still pretty damn good.

TV Review: 'Home Fires'

(Series; PBS, Sun. Oct. 4, 8 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in the U.K. by ITV Studios and Masterpiece.

Crew: Executive producers, Francis Hopkinson, Catherine Oldfield, Rebecca Eaton; producers, Sue de Beauvoir, Jeremy Gwilt; directors, Bruce Goodison, Robert Quinn; writers, Simon Block, Mark Burt, Tina Pepler; based on the book “Jambusters” by Julie Summers; camera, Joel Devlin; production designer, Dominic Hyman; editor, Peter Oliver; music, Samuel Sim; casting, Victor Jenkins, Kelly Valentine Hendry. 60 MIN.

Cast: Samantha Bond, Francesca Annis, Ed Stoppard, Ruth Gemmell, Claire Rushbrook, Frances Grey, Clare Calbraith, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Leila Mimmack, Claire Price, Fenella Woolgar, Leanne Best, Daisy Badger, Mark Bazeley, Mark Bonnar, Mike Noble, Daniel Ryan, Chris Coghill

More TV

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

  • Marvel's Runaways Review

    'Marvel's Runaways' Renewed for Third Season at Hulu

    Hulu has renewed “Marvel’s Runaways” for a third season. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Runaways” stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds who unite against their parents, the Pride, portrayed by Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, and James Yaegashi. Related 'Indian Summers' The [...]

  • Robert Mueller Report

    TV News Scrambles Schedules in Wake of Mueller Report

    The “Mueller Report” has prompted a bevy of new reports from the nation’s big TV-news outlets. CBS News plotted a Monday primetime special to cover the disclosure of a summary of the report prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that had examined Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and probed whether President Donald [...]

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Bette Midler, Judith Light Join Netflix's

    Bette Midler and Judith Light Join Ryan Murphy's 'The Politician' on Netflix

    Bette Midler and Judith Light will guest star on “The Politician,” the first series Ryan Murphy will launch on Netflix after he inked a deal with the streamer last year. Murphy made the announcement at the end of Saturday’s PaleyFest panel for his FX series “Pose,” and noted that Midler and Light will both appear [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Indya MooreFX's

    Patti LuPone Joins FX's 'Pose' as Season 2 Jumps to 1990

    “Pose” co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed that Broadway legend Patti LuPone will guest star on the upcoming second season of the FX drama, and that the series will jump ahead to 1990. Murphy made the announcement while moderating the “Pose” panel at PaleyFest on Saturday, telling lead actress MJ Rodriguez that she will share many scenes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content