Tuesday, March 26, 2013

'Mr. Selfridge' could profit from 'Downton Abbey' love Carol Memmott (USA TODAY)

Can Mr. Selfridge cash in on the phenomenal success of Downton Abbey? Will the love affairs of a store's clerks and wealthy patrons enthrall viewers as much as the downstairs-upstairs goings-on at the Grantham estate?

Like Downton, Mr. Selfridge is a lavish costume drama, premiering on PBS' Masterpiece Sunday (9 ET/PT, times may vary). Also set in early 20th-century England, it's the rags-to-riches story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the charismatic, American entrepreneur who in 1909 threw open the doors to Selfridge's, welcoming London and the world to the first truly modern department store.

"No one does period drama better than the Brits," says Jeremy Piven, the three-time Emmy-winning actor who played Hollywood agent Ari Gold in HBO's Entourage, and who stars as the bigger-than-life Selfridge. The timing, he says, couldn't be better.

"If you would have said three years ago that America would fall in love with a period drama that takes place at the turn of the century, with a group of British actors Americans weren't familiar with, that it would be a hit and it was on PBS, I think it would be hard to wrap your mind around it," Piven says.

But Mr. Selfridge is banking on more than good timing. The eight-part series is written by Andrew Davies, who has smitten audiences worldwide with screenplays based on classic characters and stories. His Pride and Prejudice, based on Jane Austen's iconic novel, will forever evoke an image of Mr. Darcy's (Colin Firth) toned torso encased in a clingy, wet white shirt.

"Mr. Selfridge is the story of one man's life, a pretty remarkable man at that, and it's a family story and a workplace story," says Davies, who loosely based the series on British writer Lindy Woodhead's 2007 biography Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge.

READ MORE: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2013/03/25/downton-abbey-mr-selfridge-jeremy-piven-entourage/2002665/

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