Friday I got the boxed DVD set of Flambards and I've been immersed in Edwardian England ever since. If you've never seen the 1978 British production that was all the rage on PBS stations in the early 80s, then you missed horses, aeroplanes, romance, war, a plucky heiress, suffragettes, and oh so much more. Watching it again (I'm 9 episodes through the 13) I was amazed at how it holds up almost 30 years later. Yes, it's sappy and often cheesy, but the performances are still moving. The thing is, I really care about these people, even the ones I hate.
What surprises me now as an adult was how complex some of the issues are that they dealt with - classism, sexism, economic models, technology as a social force, war and peace, tradition, and I could go on. Flambards, the once proud manor at the center of the story, is repeatedly said to be "falling to bits" because its masters have forgotten what it means to serve. They have focused all of their energy on horses and hunting and, consequently, their farms have failed, the bill collectors are at their door, and they have had to let go most of the staff. It is the very model of a falling empire, mired in the past, unaware that its glory days are fading, and with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Meanwhile the world is changing around it. It is an apt depiction of the failing British Empire or, for that matter, more contemporary examples.
The big disappointment for me is that there are absolutely no special features included. No "making of" documentaries or "where are they now" interviews. Checking around the web I found precious little as to information as to what became of the cast. None seem to go on to much in the way of fame, least of all the lead, Christine McKenna, who was memorable in her role as Christina, who apparently only had one on-screen role post Flambards. And how about all of those vintage aeroplanes that they used! How did they get them? What was it like working with them? And now I'm amazed by some of the technical challenges of the shoots and trying to keep the show clear of anachronisms. Maybe that was easier in 1978 than now. And did the actors do their own stunts?
By the way, I'm watching the series with my 11 year old daughter, Emma, who doesn't get all the nuance, but said after watching half an episode "I'm hooked."
Well, if anyone has ever loved this series or can point me to more information on these things, please leave a comment.
Here are some of the on-line references I could find: