'The House of Eliott - Series One'
(Stella Gonet, Louise Lombard, Aden Gillett, Cathy Murphy, Judy Flynn, et al / 4-DVD / Not Rated / 2014 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Louise Lombard (Hidalgo, CSI) and Stella Gonet (Nicholas Nickleby) star as Evangeline and Beatrice Eliott, daughters of a prominent doctor who must support themselves after their profligate father dies and leaves them penniless. They have no education or training, just a passion for fashion design.
DVD Verdict: With the release recently of the entire series on DVD we thought we'd take you back to where it all started with this Series One DVD review.
Taking it from the top, the cast is just adorable; lovely. Featuring Aden Gillett, Cathy Murphy, Peter Birch, Barbara Jefford, and Francesca Folan in supporting roles while Stella Gonet plays Bea and Louise Lombard is Evie. The leads are immensely likable and their chemistry is wonderful.
Filmed mostly in Bristol, England the settings feel authentic and richly detailed while Joan Wadge's sumptuous, BAFTA - and Emmy-winning costume design completes the fabulous visual appeal of flapper-era England. On the whole, the first season of the show sets the stage for a unique and engaging drama to unfold against the very fascinating social climate of the Roaring Twenties.
'THE HOUSE OF ELIOTT' follows the stories of two sisters. Left virtually penniless after the death of their tyrannical, uncaring father, Beatrice (Stella Gonet) and Evangeline Eliott (Louise Lombard), uneducated and unemployed, must make their own way in the world. Beatrice finds an unlikely ally when she becomes the assistant to society photographer Jack Maddox (Aden Gillett), an unkempt, roguish playboy; whilst beautiful Evie - restricted in her attempts to contribute to the waning Eliot income by her stuffy cousin and guardian Arthur Eliott (Peter Birch) - considers becoming a paid dancer at a local academy.
Both girls have always enjoyed the pastime of making their own clothes, but the solution to their bleak financial situation doesn't present itself until the girls gain employment in two of London's high-fashion houses - and witness first-hand the sweatshop conditions of the underpaid workers, not to mention ruthless lead couturiers who have no qualms about taking the sole credit for Evie's dazzlingly modern designs.
Could they parlay their considerable dressmaking and design skills into opening London's most revolutionary new fashion boutique? The 1920's are offering women untold new possibilities in the world of high fashion - bobbed hair, short skirts, scintillating bias-cut, bare-backed gowns--and the Eliott girls' keen sense of style fits right in! Beginning with a small financial investment provided by Jack and his sister Penelope (Francesca Folan), Bea and Evie's dream looks set to become a reality.
The characters are all wonderfully-drawn - Stella Gonet and Louise Lombard are both quite unique actresses, and yet do manage to convince the audience of a true sisterly bond. Elder sister Bea is almost Evie's surrogate mother in many respects, and is fiercely intent on protecting her from the attentions of unscrupulous men in a new social climate where Evie is considered a prime catch. Supporting the Elliot sisters in their brave new enterprise are two steadfast young women - expert seamstress Tilly (Cathy Murphy) who is with the girls right from the start; and staunch workroom supervisor Madge (Judy Flynn).
From the very beginning, we can tell that Jack Maddox will be the established love interest for Bea, but I appreciate how the writers manage to create a welcome diversion by having Jack's best friend "Piggy" Garstone (Robert Daws) make a few adorable plays for her affection. In terms of love interests in this first series, Evie has a few admirers, including Arthur (his proposal is appalling and heartbreaking in equal measures), Sebastian Pearce (Jeremy Brudenell), a young man who first appears on the Eliotts' doorstep claiming to be their long-lost half-brother; and, for a short period, even Jack.
The stories and subplots in this debut series of 'THE HOUSE OF ELIOTT' careen along at break-neck speed. As a result, several characters with lots of unexplored dramatic value are sadly disposed of far too quickly ("Piggy", Daphne Haycock, Peter Lo-Ching, Arthur and Sebastian among them). That is really my only criticism of a show that's almost insanely entertaining, even on repeated viewings. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.