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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne is a romantic British series set in Victorian England. While it addresses some mature themes, including marrying for money, manslaughter, illegitimacy, and alcoholism, the violence and sexual references are minimal and will go over heads of younger viewers (although they probably won’t be too interested in watching, anyway). Teen and adult Downton Abbey fans will find this similar soapy (but classy!) drama appealing.
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What's the story?
From Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes comes JULIAN FELLOWES PRESENTS DOCTOR THORNE, a romantic Victorian-era period drama adapted from the third novel of Anthony Trollope’s series the Chronicles of Barsetshire. It stars Tom Hollander as Dr. Thorne, the trusted local doctor of Greshambury, and the uncle of penniless Mary Thorne (Stefanie Martini). Miss Thorne has captured the heart of childhood friend Frank Gresham (Harry Richardson), but his parents, Sir Gresham (Richard McCabe) and Lady Arabella (Rebecca Front), are insistent that he and his sisters, Lady Beatrice (Nell Barlow) and Lady Augusta (Gwyneth Keyworth), marry for money to keep their estate and pay off their massive debts to Sir Roger Scatcherd (Ian McShane). Life becomes more complicated as Ms. Thorpe learns about her illegitimate birth, and the Gresham children are pushed into courting people who are wealthy but ill-bred. It doesn’t help that Frank’s cousin, Lady Alexandrina de Courcy (Kate O'Flynn), and her mother, Countess de Courcy (Phoebe Nicholls), encourage Lady Arabella’s persecution of Mary. Adding to the fray is Sir Louis (Edward Franklin), Sir Scatcherd's troubled son, who makes everyone's lives more difficult.
Is it any good?
This entertaining British miniseries offers viewers a story full of romance and class distinctions that promises stately soap opera-like drama and a happy ending. Despite some creative license taken with the TV adaptation, it stays true to Trollope's work, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at Victorian high society and the hypocrisy that resulted from trying to maintain it.
It's not as energetic as Downton Abbey, but there are some robust characters here thanks to Rebecca Front and Ian McShane's performances. Meanwhile, Julian Fellowes' stately introductions at the beginning of each installment give it Masterpiece Theatre-like quality that adds to the show’s flair. The costumes, grand English estates, and, of course, British accents also make it a worthwhile watch for those who like period pieces from across the pond.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of British period pieces among American audiences. What is it that makes these shows fun to watch? Do you think the lives of the wealthy people who lived during these times were as stylized as they are made out to be on TV? Do shows such as this one inadvertently perpetuate skewed ideas about British history or stereotypes about people who lived (or live) in England?
Which time period would you like to visit? Why? What would you do there?
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