First Look: BBC’s The Paradise vs. ITV’s Mr. Selfridge

The BBC and ITV look set to recreate their 2010 on-air period drama battle between Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, only this time the setting is posh department stores instead of Edwardian drawing rooms. BBC One has released their first promo clip for an upcoming drama called The Paradise, which ostensibly looks to be an answer to ITV’s Mr. Selfridge, the ten-part series focused on the life of the American founder of Selfridges that’s set to air next year.

Get your first look at trailers for both The Paradise and Mr. Selfridge belowand let the department store wars begin!

In this corner: The Paradise. Based on classic French novel The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola, the eight-part BBC drama will be set in a lavish department store in northern England in the late nineteenth century and focus on the lives and relationships of its staff. There will be –as is apparently par for the course nowadays – love affairs, class issues and plenty of gorgeous clothes. Lark Rise to Candleford’s Sarah Lancashire and Trial and Retribution’s David Hayman star, and will be joined by a strong supporting cast that includes Elaine Cassidy, Matthew McNulty, Joanna Vanderham, and Emun Elliott.

Here's the BBC's first trailer for The Paradise – honestly, the clip is fairly impressive given that it’s likely that this spot was fast tracked to take advantage of the huge promotional platform that was the London Olympics. (As far as I'm aware they haven't actually been filming this for that long!)

In this corner: Mr. Selfridge.  ITV’s ten-part department store staga will chronicle the dramatic life of entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge who turned shopping into an exciting social activity for Edwardian-era women. Emmy winner Jeremy Piven will play Selfridge, a man who boasted both great brilliance and an exceptionally colorful personal life, and the drama’s storylines will also – shocker – feature class issues and ill advised love affairs.

ITV has also just released the first teaser trailer for Mr. Selfridge and, though it is considerably shorter than its BBC rival, is probably enough to pique the interest of those who love period drama series.

While there is no firm airdate for The Paradise yet – internet reports indicate that filming is still going on, possibly with an eye to a January 2013 transmission – the fact that the BBC is already rolling out promotional support for the drama is pretty telling. The network is still clearly smarting from the fact that its revival of Upstairs, Downstairs struggled greatly in the ratings thanks to the fact that it followed in the wake of the juggernaut that was Downton Abbey and never really recovered.  Obviously, the Beeb is looking to avoid history repeating itself by getting its Edwardian department store drama out in front of viewers first, even in this earliest of promotional stages. (To which I say: who cares? If they’re both quality programs, I’ll check them both out. That can’t just be me.)  There’s no firm transmission information for Selfridge either, though it has been officially announced as part of the Masterpiece slate next year.  Give this fact, it seems very likely to me that an American home may also be found for Paradise at some point. So, really, we all win in the end, don’t we?

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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