Thursday, August 06, 2015

Poldark Vs. The Crimson Field: It's Crimson Field by a backstory

Two shows arrived on PBS at about the same time.  Both are historical.  Poldark was given much hype, The Crimson Field not so much.  In fact, I only found The Crimson Field because it was on after Poldark.

Poldark is a remake of a popular series and features a comely young actor who's been in The Hobbit movies.  It's historical, so it should be right up my alley.   Cornwall has some spectacular scenery and an interesting history.  There's romance, thwarted and discovered, there's family drama, labor strife and financial troubles.

The Crimson Field is about nurses in a field hospital during World War I.  I recognized three of the actors: the young woman who played Robb Stark's wife in Game of Thrones, the man in charge of the hospital who's the rather meek footman/butler in Downton Abbey and an actor who seems to specialize in wastrels who was in Rome.  There are a couple of other comely young doctors, including one with a Scottish accent (always a bonus), several other nurses and many young wounded men.  There's romance, there's drama, heart-break and, of course, the war.

Poldark got the hype, but I enjoyed The Crimson Field more, and I've decided it's all because of the women.  I care about them a lot more than I care about any of the female characters in Poldark.

The female characters on Poldark just seem so...dull.  Even Demelza, who should be very interesting indeed.  Why is that?  After some thought on the subject, I decided it's because we get more of the history, or backstory, of the women on The Crimson Field.  Not a whole ton, mind you, but certainly more than in Poldark.  For instance, we find out about the very proper head nurse's past love.  It took only a couple of small scenes, but what a difference in how we see her!  We find out about the main character's past, and it's heart-breaking -- and explains her reaction to the handsome Scottish doctor.  To compare, Poldark was wounded during the American Revolution and was presumed dead.  He was in love with a woman who got engaged to someone else and she marries him after Poldark returns.  But we never really saw her deal with that presumed loss.  I don't recall that we got any real explanation for why she felt she had to go through with the marriage, something that should have been at the top of the list since her husband is such a loser compared to Poldark.  

Presumably there's a lot of story to get through with Poldark, so perhaps that's why the past history of the characters is pretty much ignored.  But if I'm not invested in the characters because I'm not getting to know their history, I'm not going to enjoy the series, half-naked, handsome male actors notwithstanding.

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