'Masterpiece' Lands 'Mr Bates vs the Post Office'

Mr Bates Masterpiece Key Art

Mr. Bates vs The Post Office key art


I said Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office was "perfect PBS fare;" apparently, Masterpiece agreed with me. The anthology series agreed with me so much that it has upended the entire planned spring schedule for 2024 to make room for it. PBS announced today that Suranne Jones' MaryLand, which was initially planned to air starting April 7, 2024, has been ingloriously shoved down to the calendar and will now premiere on Sunday, May 5, to make a four-week space to fit in the Toby Jones series that had become ITV's biggest hit since Downton Abbey.

Full disclosure/humblebrag: I have been saying that Mr. Bates vs the Post Office is perfect for Masterpiece since I initially saw ITV commission it back in 2021. Gwyneth Hughes, who was doing the upcoming Tom Jones, was writing it; it was a nerdy story about a real-life crime. But it was not a thriller murder true crime, but an IT screw-up that made it look like hundreds of low-level post office workers were stealing from the tills of the U.K. mail offices nationwide. They were then falsely charged and convicted of mail fraud by their own government. It was a Frontline special in Masterpiece clothing. 

Then ITV cast a PBS murderer's row of Toby Jones (The Long Shadow), Lia Williams (The Capture), Alex Jennings (The Crown), Shaun Dooley (Criminal Record), Clare Calbraith (Grace), Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), and Amit Shah (Happy Valley), and I could not for the life of me understand why this wasn't on Masterpiece unless BritBox must've already snatched up the rights or something. But no, it was just that no one realized how perfect this was for public television until it hit the airwaves and went from must-see TV to a must-act-on government scandal in days. Luckily, Masterpiece acted quickly, and the series will debut in the U.S. in April.

Here's the series synopsis:

When money started to seemingly disappear from its local branches, the government-owned Post Office wrongly blamed their own managers for its apparent loss. For more than a decade, hundreds were accused of theft and fraud, and many were even sent to prison - leaving lives, marriages, and reputations in ruins. But the issue was actually caused by errors in the Post Office’s own computer system - something it denied for years. Revealing a shocking David vs. Goliath fight for justice, this is the story of the decent ordinary people who were relentlessly pursued, coerced and controlled by a powerful corporation, and their ongoing battle, against seemingly insurmountable odds, to right so many horrific wrongs.

Along with the cast listed above, the series also stars Monica Dolan (The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe), Julie Hesmondhalgh (The Trouble With Maggie Cole), Ian Hart (The Responder), Will Mellor (Line of Duty), Adam James (Vigil), and Katherine Kelly (Mr. Selfridge).

Gwyneth Hughes (Tom Jones) wrote all four episodes, with James Strong (Broadchurch) directing and Chris Clough (World On Fire) producing. Hughes and Strong executive produced with Joe Williams, Natasha Bondy, and Ben Gale on behalf of Little Gem and Patrick Spence for ITV Studios. 

Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office will premiere on most PBS stations on Sunday, April 7, 2024, at 9 p.m. ET and stream on the PBS app and the Masterpiece Channel with one episode a week through the end of the month. All episodes will be available on premiere day on PBS Passport as a binge for members to stream.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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