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June 5th ~ Q & As

By Ana Brazil
June 5, 2020

Studying history provides us with a deeper understanding of current events, showing us that the nature of man hasn’t changed much over the centuries. But we can’t read every historical document, and sometimes we turn to audiobooks, movies, TV, and even Broadway to shine a (fictional) light on history.

This Friday we ask “Got a favorite historical television series?”

Linda says “Outlander is by far my favorite historical series.

You might argue that time travel is a fantasy element, and that is true. Most of the story occurs in the past, though. The author, Diana Gabaldon, imbued the books with an incredible level of detail from plants to herbal remedies to medical practices. The TV series doesn’t follow the books faithfully, but it does reproduce the relationship between the main characters, Claire and Jamie, accurately. I heard Diana Gabaldon talk once, and she was asked why she wrote about a man in a kilt. Her famous response was, “Why not?” She went on to talk about how sexy men in kilts are, which completely embarrassed the one man in the audience who was wearing a kilt! So fantasy is my favorite genre besides historical fiction, and Outlander fills the bill.”

Katie lets us know “I’m a sucker for historical fiction TV.

I always keep up to date with Outlander. Before it even came out I was excited for it—not because I had read the books (I read the first one when it was first published in mass market paperback), but because the showrunner, Ronald D. Moore, also worked on Star Trek and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. I’m a big science fiction fan, and I believe that historical fiction and science fiction are close cousins. Both require a clear and solid world to be built for the audience, one with continuity and with an eye for its contemporary consumer.

Of course, I do like the anachronistic historical TV as well, like Hulu’s Harlots, but less so on the newest offering The Great. The difference being that I know something about Catherine the Great, the protagonist of The Great, and the show skips over a powerful origin story of Sophie as she becomes Catherine, as she watches Empress Elizabeth. How incredible would it be to watch an older actress embody Empress Elizabeth, with her extravagant gender-bent balls, where she would wear silk breeches, and make the men wear dresses? Such a missed opportunity.

But a show like Harlots, which fictionalizes the a lower class brothel in 18th century London, is about an underclass that doesn’t ever receive a biography. It’s about people that still exist, that still never get biographies. And for that, its anachronistic flavor works.“

Kathryn shares that “I just finished The Great, an occasionally true story and loved it.

This bawdy dramedy about Catherine the Great plays loose and fast with the facts but boy is it entertaining and gorgeous to boot! The casting was superb and the writing terrific. Despite the outlandish sex and violence, I fell for the characters—even the foolish and often cruel Peter – played by Nicholas Hoult channeling his best Hugh Grant. Elle Fanning is a sympathetic and idealistic Catherine with a killer wardrobe. My favorite, though, is the dotty and devilish Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow)—Peter’s wacky aunt who, when she’s not training butterflies (!) or dealing with potential threats to the crown, befriends Catherine. Another standout is the often inebriated General Velementov (Douglas Hodge). He reminds me at times of Kutuzov in WAR & PEACE—my pandemic read. In this uncertain time, The Great reminded me that history is replete with foolish emperors, swampy courts, inexplicable tragedy and unexpected triumphs. Which makes for great viewing.”

Ana answers with “We watched all of Black Sails last summer.

I’m not a big pirate fan, but was intrigued by how the characters saw their piracy as a business. They were organized, had specific jobs and expectations, and boasted big plans for the future. They were just like regular business men of the time (the story begins in 1715)! The story moves very quickly—and not always logically—but it was a great adventure. Also, check out the opening credits sometime; they are too fascinating to skip.

ALSO…going way back, the 1974 TV show Shoulder to Shoulder about the British Suffragette movement still resonates with me. If I could watch it again, I would!”

C.V. concludes with “As a general rule, I try to avoid watching television.

However, I do occasionally purchase a mini-series to watch. Like most people, I relish spending hours getting lost in Pride and Prejudice. Over the last few years I have broadened my selection. More recently, my husband and I watched Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. This mini-series has eight episodes we had intended to watch one per night. So good! We finished in three nights which meant that had to purchase the sequel, World Without End. It did not disappoint. But then, I enjoy things of a medieval bent. During this time of shelter-in-place, I had intended to watch The White Queen, but somehow I just haven’t found the time. I have been pushing hard to complete the second draft of my work-in-progress, ROSES & REBELS, enjoying the reprieve from working to focus on my writing.”

Ana Brazil
Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

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