Mr. Selfridge TV Poster Image

Mr. Selfridge



Period drama shows dark side of living too large.
  • Network: PBS
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Selfridge turns buying and selling into a competitive sport and enthusiastically champions consumption. The show gleefully celebrates the glamour and beauty of acquiring, with long scenes of the camera lingering on crystal, china, fancy gowns, perfume, etc. The birth of the modern department store started here and consumption is uncritical. Viewers can, however, see the consequences of nonstop spending onscreen.

Positive role models

Selfridge is unfaithful to his wife and extravagant with company money; these misdeeds have consequences that are shown onscreen.


Some scuffling and mild fistfights.


Selfridge enthusiastically cheats on his wife with younger women, usually stylish celebrities. He is shown in bed with his wife as well as other women, kissing, often fully dressed. There is flirting and double entendres; few characters seem to take their wedding vows seriously.


Some insulting language directed at the poor: "She's nothing but a bit of gutterslosh" sneers one character about another.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters frequently drink at parties and may act drunk or flirty when drinking. One character uses cocaine unapologetically; Selfridge himself is a teetotaler. Some characters smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Mr. Selfridge is a biographical series about an early department store maven that features lots of scenes of adultery, though folks are mostly clothed and discrete. One main character is addicted to cocaine, and there are many scenes of characters drinking at parties; some people act aggressively or flirty after having drinks. There are many scenes where characters are insulted for not being attractive or wealthy enough. The rise of the department store may not be a subject that interests younger viewers, but teens, especially those with an interest in fashion, may want to watch and parents may enjoy watching with them. If so, parents may want to make points about the downside of reckless consumption and unchecked consumerism.

What's the story?

Jeremy Piven is MR. SELFRIDGE, the self-made scion of legendary London department store Selfridges. But when we meet him, he's just a loudmouthed American meeting resistance from the Londoners who aren't interested in a Yank coming over and trying to tell them how to run things. Selfridge has boundless confidence when coming up with new ways to promote his store, and a lot of adoring things to say to his faithful, long-suffering wife, Rose (Frances O'Connor) and four children. But in private, he cheats on Rose with a succession of free-living dancers and socialites and will do just about anything to keep his business going. Meanwhile, the smiling phalanx of employees who serve his customers each have their own stories to tell...and their own secrets.

Is it any good?


PBS marketed Mr. Selfridge as a vintage cousin to its much-beloved Downton Abbey. But though this drama comes similarly wrapped in period-correct hairstyles and velvet gowns, it's no Downton. The acting is a bit more over-the-top; the plot points are less absorbing; the characters not as finely drawn. Nonetheless, particularly for those who enjoy whiling away hours in a bygone world, Mr. Selfridge is a fun little melodrama with incredible costumes, sets, and art direction.

Piven himself makes an enjoyable huckster, sweating and straining to make people notice his store. He hires everyone from famous ballet dancers to Sherlock Holmes in pursuit of free publicity with P.T. Barnum-ish zeal. Then he rolls in bed with his wife and tells her how very much he loves her... just before he sets his mistress up in an apartment. The antiheroic hero is in style these days, popping up in The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, amongst other spots. But there's something about Selfridge, or possibly the way Piven plays him, that makes him harder to watch (and to love) than those other characters. Maybe that's why Mr. Selfridge is merely entertaining instead of addictive.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the ideas Selfridge had about shopping and how the experience of shopping has changed. Do shop attendants help you with your purchases in stores now? How is shopping different in our modern times?

  • Is the audience supposed to like Selfridge? Admire him? Or draw cautionary lessons from his life? What about the way he is presented makes you draw this conclusion?

  • Do you know any other TV shows that take place in a bygone setting? How is Mr. Selfridge alike? How is it different?

TV details

Premiere date:March 31, 2013
Cast:Frances O'Connor, Jeremy Piven
TV rating:TV-PG

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byTheAlice12 June 5, 2015

Suitable for Teens and Tweens

This dark drama about the department store Selfridge's is quirky and interesting, however kids under 12 may find it boring as it is aimed at older viewers. There are a few sex scene throughout the series, however none are graphic and the scenes always cut after the couples jump into bed. Characters have affairs when they are married, which younger viewers may not be able to understand. A main character becomes addicted to cocaine, plus two characters have an abusive alcoholic father who hits them (it never shows the actual scenes, just the aftermath, of which a character says they "fainted and hit the bathtub" when someone questions their bruises. Many characters are shown drinking wine. Language isn't over the top, mostly da** and the occasional bit** The second series takes a darker turn. More violence and dark twists are implied, also more use of alcohol. World War 1 begins, a main character suffers from shell shock, another main dies from a terminal illness. Overall, this show is more suitable for more mature tweens and teenagers. The show itself is very interesting (especially for people interested in fashion) and good for fans of The Paradise, Downton Abbey and other TV period dramas.
Parent of a 3, 11, and 13 year old Written byB H. November 5, 2016

Inappropriate for children!

After binging Downton Abbey with my oldest, we thought it would be okay to watch Mr. Selfridge together, since Masterpiece Classic usually produces family-friendly shows for teens. However, after the first season, things got inappropriate, even for my 13-year-old. Mr. Selfridge cheats on his wife with several different women, usually celebrities, and is shown making out with them, flirting with them in scant or no clothing (nothing shown), and preparing for/leaving from sex. He continued this after his wife died. Additionally, other characters are shown having graphic sex from above, showing the man thrusting on top of the moaning woman. Language is scant, but Mr. Selfridge often drowns his financial and personal sorrows in gambling and drinking, which is a terrible example, and almost loses his business for him. By the end of the show, he has fallen into a state of drunken, sorrowful despair, which upset the whole family! It started out as a show okay for kids, but only got more inappropriate as time went on.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byIsabel luecke January 10, 2016

Mature but addicting drama four and a half stars

though mr selfrdige may be mature: characters drink and smoke regularly (harry Selfridge, on one instance gets drunk and crashes a car) one character is a drug addict. not to mention plenty of sex (harry selfridge cheats on his wife, two more characters are having an affair) and plenty more. the whole thing is completely unrealistic and over dramatic. the theme of having sex and then leaving the person out of the blue is quite common, and you might want to consider the infulence that might have on your kids. there is some cursing (bitch damn hell) nothing too bad. over all mr selfridge is a riveting drama that is worth the watch!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking