THE BLOG

Mr Selfridge: All Window Dressing and Very Little Else

04/02/2015 10:22 GMT | Updated 05/04/2015 10:59 BST

Shopping makes you happy. Does it? I can't say I've noticed. Apparently, it releases the same feel good endorphins as exercise and sex. Forget BodyPump and Grindr then, let's all pop down to Morrisons to get our jollies. As long as I'm not the one cleaning up after all the customers have gone home. Dear God, what's that spillage in aisle 5?

Unfortunately, unlike the real thing, I fear that watching shopping doesn't leave you in quite the same state of euphoric delirium. Particularly if Mr. Selfridge is anything to go by. Now back for a third series (how?), this is Are You Being Served without the dramatic intent, pathos, intelligence, emotional content and tightly scripted storylines. In short, it's a dog minus the occasional witty recourse to Mrs Slocombe's pussy.

The epitome of cosy weekend evening viewing, it forms part of a new television genre I've christened BJ TV. And boy does it suck. To avoid any confusion about the precise meaning of these two letters, I'd like to point out that BJ actually stands for Bed Jacket, which is an article of clothing worn for added warmth by ladies of a certain age as they sit up in bed or in a wingback chair while enjoying period programming at its absolute worst.

Clearly ITV are giving us what they believe we want to see. What the focus groups and advertisers are telling them we want to see, more like. Something that allows us to wallow in a hazy glow of sepia-tinted retail nostalgia before we drift off to sleep to dream of Marshall & Snelgrove, Derry & Toms, Swan & Edgar and a host of other names that have since gone to that giant department store in the sky. You know the one: Deity, Divinity & Son. I think they also had a branch in Croydon. Or was it hell? Well, same difference.

Performance wise, the cast of this dressed up dirge have the range, depth and charisma of a QVC presenter. Wherever Princess Marie de Bolatoff (Zoe Wanamaker) got that Russian accent from, she should return it forthwith and ask for an immediate refund or better still, exchange it for a different accent altogether. Fingers crossed she kept the receipt. Frankly, anything's got to be an improvement - South African, Italian, German, Jamaican or Indian. Excellent idea. The producers should quickly turn her into a Maharani.

The trouble with Harry (if only this was a post about Hitchcock's 1955 black comedy) is that he's not Ari. But oh how we wish he were.

We long for him to stomp along the corridors ranting and raving like a mad man. In a fit of uncontrollable rage, we want him to smash office equipment to bits as he humiliates and insults another of his employees. More than anything though, we hope for a few choice expletives to come out of his mouth. Just the odd Motherfucker, whore, cocksucker or asshole. Enough to shake the dialogue up a bit and make the whole thing slightly less torpid. Doesn't necessarily have to be every other utterance or every other sentence. And there's no need for anything too Anglo-Saxon. Although if the occasional use of the C-Word - not Cold, Cream or Cleanser - did slip out, then so be it.

It's a fact of an actor's life, especially an actor from the small screen, that they are often associated with one part above all others, No matter how hard they try to leave behind and disassociate themselves from the career defining role for which they're most famous, they simply can't. Regardless of who else they play in the future, it's practically impossible for the public to accept them portraying other people.

Such is the case with Jeremy Piven. To me and millions of others, he is and always will be Ari Gold, the self obsessed, egomaniacal, verbally abusive, misogynistic, offensively rude and impossibly charming Hollywood power player as depicted in Entourage, the multi Emmy winning HBO comedy about a young, handsome movie star by the name of Vincent Chase and his various friends, hangers-on, managers, lawyers and agents. Ari is his agent and from the off it became evident he was the main attraction; the real reason for tuning in.

As Harry Gordon Selfridge, Piven doesn't ring true to anywhere near the same degree.

Suddenly a look or a familiar mannerism may make you think that he is about to imbue the West End entrepreneur with the same level of outrageousness as Gold. Then back he goes into kindly benevolence mode and we never have the chance to hear such gems as: "He's on my to do list right after inserting needles into my cock", "You're fucked. Do you know how fucked you are? I mean you are so fucking fucked, you are the most fucking fucked person I know" and "Die die die and when you're gagging on his balls, I want you to bite down, so that he can die too". Alas, we don't even get his trademark: "You want to hug it out? Come on, hug it out, bitch".

Instead, it's left to Mr Crabb (Ron Cook) as the Head of Accounts to give us the only heightened sense of tension. Witness the below exchange between him and his wife which took place over tea and cake in episode 2 broadcast last week. Those of a nervous disposition might want to stop reading now.

'Arthur, it's Victoria sponge, your favourite'.

'Am I a yes man, Mildred?'

'You must follow your conscience, Arthur'.

Mr. Selfridge continues at 9pm on Sundays. Can your nerves stand the excitement? I'm not sure mine can.