Based on E.F. Benson's stories, this beloved 1986 British miniseries is a vintage treat. The incomparable Prunella Scales (best-loved as dragon lady Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers) and Geraldine McEwan star as Mapp and the recently widowed Lucia, who has come to the provincial English village Tilling-on-Sea. Lucia rents a house from Mapp for the summer and almost immediately, the battle lines are drawn between these two formidable adversaries, who vie for control of Tilling society. Mapp and Lucia plot and counterplot against each other with such unconventional weapons as a conflicted gardener and a disputed lobster recipe. Adding to the fun is a gallery of eccentric characters, including Georgie (Oscar-winner Nigel Hawthorne), Lucia's fey confidante and co-conspirator, as well as the local minister, who insists on speaking with a Scottish accent, and Irene, a pipe-smoking, tommish artist who paints pictures of lady wrestlers.
Perhaps the series is best described as an affectionate salute to British eccentricity. It is packed with larger than life characters, who treat seemingly trivial occasions such as village fetes as if they were matters of life and death. McEwan and Hawthorne are a superb double-act. Babbling in baby-talk (using "me" instead of "I", "ickle" instead of "little"), their feigned innocence masks their rivalry, which comes to the fore in a hilarious piano duet which soon turns into a duel. Scales also excels as Lucia's formidable opponent, her faux bonhomie failing to conceal her self-centred rudeness. A stock of excellent character actors fill in the numerous supporting roles, but it's the joyous moments when Mapp and Lucia lock horns that make this wonderful series such a classic of British TV.
In many ways this is the female version of the equally wonderful Jeeves & Wooster, it is set in the same era and they both follow the adventures of the English gentry. Also in common with that show are the amazing period costumes, especially Lucia's eveningwear, absolutely breathtaking!
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