‘Honest Endeavour Together!’: Social Mobility, Entrepreneurialism and Class in Mr Selfridge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The final series of ITVs Mr Selfridge in January 2016 brought to an end one of ITV’s most popular primetime dramas after a three year run. Devised by Andrew Davies, one of television’s most successful writers, the series is a largely fictionalised drama revolving around the lives of American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, his family and friends, and the staff of his flagship Oxford Street department store from its launch in the first decade of the Twentieth Century to his departure in the late 1930s. Like the hugely successful Downton Abbey (ITV/Masterpiece Theatre, 2010-2015), Mr Selfridge presents a lavish portrayal of Edwardian England. Although fictionalised, there are recurring references to historical moments in the series, such as the First World War, the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign by the Suffragettes, and celebrity visits to the store including those of Anna Pavlova, Ernest Shackleton, A.A. Milne and Louis Bleriot. Mr Selfridge revolves around a charismatic male lead the embodiment of the socially mobile individual, who at once forms a bridge between the upper class customers and the middle and working class staff in the store. The series acts as a conduit for the audience to enter a world of ‘conspicuous consumption’ (Veblen: 1899).

Mr Selfridge’s fortunes as a staple of the Sunday night schedule, traditionally regarded as a slot for ‘escapist, feel-good television’ (Byrne 2015: 64) appeared to have peaked as the final fourth series aired not in the usual Sunday night slot but in the altogether more challenging Friday 9pm night slot: ironically, in a move calculated to avoid a clash with the BBC’s new Andrew Davies adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (BBC, 2015)..
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Class and Television Drama in Contemporary Britain
EditorsDavid Forrest, Beth Johnson
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Publishers
Pages89-102
EditionIst
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-55506-9
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2017

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Keywords

  • Class
  • TV Drama

Cite this

Jamieson, G. (2017). ‘Honest Endeavour Together!’: Social Mobility, Entrepreneurialism and Class in Mr Selfridge. In D. Forrest, & B. Johnson (Eds.), Social Class and Television Drama in Contemporary Britain (Ist ed., pp. 89-102). Palgrave Macmillan Publishers .