Saturday, February 25, 2012


(This post is part of a series on the 14 Top TV Dramas You’ve Never Seen)

Now we come to my all-time favorites, as we count down The Top TV Dramas You’ve Never Seen. Number 3 is Poldark. Set in 18th century Cornwall, England against a backdrop of copper mining, famine, and riot, Poldark begins with Captain Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) returning home from the war in the colonies (the American Revolution). He learns his family believed him killed in the war; his fiancé Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) is about to marry his cousin Frances (Clive Frances), his father has died, and the family business – a copper mine – is about to be sold.  Ross reopens one of the mines in an attempt to restore his wealth.

Ross Poldark was greatly affected by ideals of the American Revolution, and returns a rebel against his social class. His former fiancé Elizabeth, is a frosty, upper class society woman. Frances is flippant but at times obstinate. Rival George Warleggan (Ralph Bates) is one of the nouveau riche class of industrialists and bankers, looked down on by the aristocracy but nonetheless a powerful man. Demelza (Angharad Rees), a teenage miner's daughter taken in by Ross, is courageous but impulsive; she is brash and down to earth, the opposite of the fragile Elizabeth.

Based on the first seven of 12 novels by Winston Graham, Poldark is about triangles. There is the love triangle among Ross, Elizabeth, and Frances; a power struggle triangle among Ross, Frances, and Warleggan; a love triangle among Ross, Elizabeth, and Warleggan after France’s death; and a love triangle among Ross, Elizabeth, and Demelza.

The beauty of Cornwall’s hills and harbors is juxtaposed against the riots, smuggling, poaching, and child labor among the miners. It is a story of class struggle and lost love, epitomized by the ongoing feud between idealist Ross Poldark, a man born to the aristocracy who turns his back on his own class, and power-driven George Warleggan, the nouveau riche grandson of an illiterate blacksmith who resents Ross for caring so little for the class privilege into which he was born.

Poldark was definitely one of my favorite shows. It introduced me to Cornwall and inspired me to travel there three years after the show concluded, where I visited Truro and Falmouth, two of the series’ locales.

Poldark is one of the most successful British TV dramas ever broadcast. Find this series and watch it; you will enjoy it. The clip below shows Ross bringing home the scrungy gamine Demelza (in the books she was 13; a few years older in the show) whom he is destined to fall in love with and marry. Warning: There was an adaptation of the eighth Poldark novel, "Stranger From the Sea", that was aired in 1996 with a different cast and was terrible. Avoid it and read the novels instead.

UPDATE: Saddened to learn Angharad Rees died on July 21, 2012, at age 63, of pancreatic cancer. 

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