This week, PBS will begin showing The Hollow Crown miniseries as part of their Great Performances series. The Hollow Crown premiered on the BBC in Britain last summer but this will be the first television airing in the United States. Per the PBS press release:
GREAT PERFORMANCES “The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s History Plays”
This ambitious four-part miniseries assembles four of Shakespeare’s history plays — Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II, and Henry V — into a single chronological narrative. The original “Game of Thrones” has inspired bold film adaptations with a cast of leading British and Hollywood talent including Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Michelle Dockery and David Morrissey.
Now, if you are anything like me (and I suspect more than a few of you are), there were two words in that description that leapt off the screen at you; Tom Hiddleston. Yes, Tom aka Loki from Marvel’s Thor and The Avengers franchise does have a starring role in the a large portion of the miniseries. For some of you, that fact is enough for you to put this on your Must Watch List. If you need more incentive, though, let me give you a little more to go on. Which I can do, since I've been able to view the series.
The Hollow Crown miniseries contains four of Shakespeare’s “history plays,” as opposed to his tragedies and comedies. These plays take real-life people and events and tell their stories (albeit with some creative license). There’s everything you would expect from Shakespeare over the course of the four plays; drama, intrigue, betrayal, loyalty, bawdiness, wonderful prose and stirring speeches.
The settings and scenery are breathtaking and some of Britain’s finest actors are giving award-worthy performances. In fact, both Ben Whishaw and Simon Russell Beale won British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards for their roles in the miniseries. It’s a quality television production of plays usually only seen on stage in the United States.
If you are a fan of Shakespeare, you should watch. If you’re a fan of historicals, I think you will enjoy it. If you love the hero’s journey, there’s a fantastic arc for you to follow in this series. If you are not used to Shakespearean dialogue, you may feel that lost when you begin to watch but do not despair; you will catch on rather quickly and it will flow for you. Seriously, I think everyone could benefit from viewing the miniseries.
There. I gave you a well thought out, fairly intelligent post about why you should watch the miniseries. I’m rather proud of myself because, I promise you, when I initially conceived this post, the only thing I planned on typing was “OH MY GOD TOM HIDDLESTON, Y’ALL!” As I mentioned, Tom is the sole reason I first viewed this, and he is the reason why I will be watching the whole thing again on PBS. Fair warning; he is not featured in the first two plays but it is worth it to watch them because of all of the other wonderful performances and to understand the entire narrative.
The hero’s arc I mentioned is the journey of how Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston), an often inebriated cad and frequent disappointment to his father King Henry IV (Jeremy Irons) becomes King Henry V, champion of the battlefield. It also features Tom in leather. And chainmail. Charging into battle on a horse. And wooing his future bride. (I dare you not to swoon at the wooage.) So, I did say many other wonderful things about the miniseries but if you’re like me and Tom would be your only interest, you’ll be more than satisfied; I promise.
The Hollow Crown Series will air on PBS stations on Fridays, September 20-October 11, 9:00 p.m. ET
• “The Hollow Crown – Richard II” – September 20
• “The Hollow Crown – Henry IV, Part I” – September 27
• “The Hollow Crown – Henry IV, Part II” – October 4
• “The Hollow Crown – Henry V” – October 11