You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Home Fires’

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


    Daniel Rezende on Netflix Brazilian Series ‘Nobody’s Looking’

    Having premiered on Netflix Nov. 22, “Nobody’s Looking” marks the first collaboration between Gullane and Netflix – their second, “Boca a Boca” is in development- and comes from a long list of new projects that the streaming giant has announced with it’s $87 Million investment in Brazilian content. The series embodies the streaming platform’s push [...]

  • Chuck LorreVariety Innovate Summit, Presented by

    Chuck Lorre Talks Streaming Vs. Broadcast, WGA-Agency Battle at Innovate Summit

    With “The Kominsky Method,” Chuck Lorre ventured out of his broadcast comedy comfort zone and took a leap into the world of streaming, an unknown quantity for him. During a keynote conversation at the Variety Innovate summit, held Thursday at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood, Lorre talked about how making a show for a [...]

  • Jason Segel as Peter, Eve Lindley

    TV News Roundup: AMC Announces 'Dispatches From Elsewhere' Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, “Dispatches From Elsewhere” starring Jason Segel has been scheduled for a two-night premiere date and Netflix released a teaser for Season 2 of “You.” CASTINGS Briana Cuoco has been cast in HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” in the recurring role of Cecilia. The series details the chilling story of a flight [...]

  • Supergirl -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths:

    'Arrowverse' Boss Breaks Down Journey to 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'

    It’s an event nearly 500 hours in the making when the “Arrowverse” and fellow CW superhero series “Black Lightning” collide in the five-part epic crossover event, “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Inspired by the iconic graphic novel by the same name, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” finds the “Arrowverse” heroes — including Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), The [...]

  • Rich Battista

    Imagine Entertainment CEO Rich Battista Exits After Less Than Four Months

    Rich Battista, the recently boarded chief executive of Imagine Entertainment, has exited his post at the production company after joining but a few months ago in August, Variety has learned. “Rich Battista has left Imagine Entertainment,” said Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the founders of the company, in a joint statement. “We thank Rich for [...]

  • Lamia Chraïbi Teams With Hicham Lasri

    Lamia Chraibi Teams With Hicham Lasri on Pan-Arab Supernatural Series 'Meskoun' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Lamia Chraibi, a leading producer of daring films from the Middle East and North Africa region, is developing “Meskoun,” an ambitious pan-Arab genre-bending series with Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Lasri (“Jahilya”) on board as showrunner. Chraibi (“Mimosas”) will produce the 14-episode series with her Moroccan banner La Prod, along with Mohamed Hefzy’s Egyptian company Film Clinic, [...]

  • Kevin CostnerKevin Costner, who stars in

    Kevin Costner Sets National Parks Investigative Services Branch Drama at ABC

    “Yellowstone” star Kevin Costner is expanding his television universe to include a whole lot more national parks. Variety has learned that the Oscar winner has set up a one-hour drama project at ABC about the Investigative Services Branch of the National Parks Service. Costner is co-writing the series with showrunner Aaron Helbing and will also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content