Oh Mr Selfridge (Jeremy Piven), what are you like? Coming to the London in 1908 with your American moxie hoping to liberate us from our stuffy class-fixated customs. Helplessly gregarious, that’s what you are like. It’s true, the yank is planning to set up a store operation at the unfashionable arse end of Oxford Street and he checks out the competition in the accessories department of Toffee Nosed, Inbred and Sterile. He flirts with shopgirl Agnes (Aisling Loftus) and charms her into emptying all the gloves onto the counter for him to peruse. This is against all regulations but as we’ve already established he’s very much from the ‘take the broomstick from out of your ass and live, English slime’ school. He bids her try on a pair of swanky red gloves – they fit like a glove, one that is appropriately sized for its bearer. Agnes’s boss is not happy with this violation. After all “It’s a shop not an exhibition” as he is happy to tell Selfridge before slinging his hook for him. Later, Agnes gets the sack behind this shit but she does get the red gloves, forwarded to her in a gift box from Selfridge. She’ll starve but look great doing it, like Karen Carpenter. Effing Selfridge. Only effing touched down in London and already causing job losses.
Oblivious to all that, Selfridge gathers the press to the proposed site of his store. Believe him and believe there’s a revolution in retail imminent and he’s its Vladimir Lenin. The hacks aren’t buying it. “With respect sir, we are standing at a hole at the dead-end of Oxford Street” says one and Selfridge retorts “This is no ordinary hole – this is the million dollar hole”. “That’s no way to talk about Mrs Selfridge!” a wag quips and they all laugh. There’s something about this American. He may be a classless piece of shit but he has verve, he has vision and he has chutzpah. That’s Yiddish for ‘he’s a pushy nause’.
“‘With respect sir, we are standing at a hole at the dead-end of Oxford Street’ says one and Selfridge retorts ‘This is no ordinary hole – this is the million dollar hole’. ‘That’s no way to talk about Mrs Selfridge!’ a wag quips and they all laugh.”
What he doesn’t have any longer is a business partner. Mister Waring (Ian Gelder) pulls out like Liam ‘Agent’ Ridgewell pulls out of a wedding – thoughtlessly, without warning and with little time for those affected to make alternative plans. He’s English – what did you expect?
Not one to let impending financial ruin hold him back he pals up with Frank Edwards (Samuel West) of the London Evening News. Selfridge has a pretty big advertising budget he can throw at Edwards if he can introduce him to the right people and Edwards is quickly showing him around the capital. He introduces him to showgirl Ellen Love (Zoe Tapper) who agrees to be the face of Selfridge’s. Networking is already paying off.
“Mister Waring pulls out like Liam ‘Agent’ Ridgewell pulls out of a wedding – thoughtlessly, without warning and with little time for those affected to make alternative plans.”
Still, it’s all very well having some piece of ass front your advertising but what about the calamitous black hole in his finances? Edwards might be able to help with that too. He introduces Selfridge to Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly). She can hook a brother up with the investor he needs but what does she want in return? Cock, specifically his, is my understanding at least I think that’s what she was implying. What will Mrs Selfridge (Poppy Lee Friar) make of this? My guess is she won’t be party to it. I mean that would be mental.
Either way Lady Mae introduces Selfridge to Mister Musker (Tim Woodward) who, while bluff, tough and gruff, seems willing to front some cash for a piece of the action. Finance worries? What finance worries?
“The finance worries that are going to see me and my shithead brother on the streets sucking cock for a living” answers Agnes, Our Lady of the Red Gloves, who has found getting work without a reference a real bind. She throws herself at the mercy of Selfridge who, realising he was to blame for her sacking, gives her the senior assistant in accessories gig. Everything is set to roll.
I’m assuming the makers of Mr Selfridge didn’t realise it would come so hard on the heels of The Paradise or that it would have exactly the same feel and themes. Once again a charismatic yet reckless storeowner opens an ostentatious emporium, changes the way we think about shopping and in the process, the way we think about life. And once again, it’s OK. Jeremy Piven is a muted version of Ari Gold as I suspect he always will be from this moment forth. And Americans will forever be teaching Brits things in stories like this. Lighten up, roll the dice, seize the day – the usual top-notch advice you get from people who end up £3 billion in debt, tanked up on prescription meds and front page wife-and-kids murder suicides. That’s great and all but at the end the day it’s a department store. Who really gives a shit?
The verdict on Mr Selfridge: It really needs Johnny Drama to turn up auditioning for some role that doesn’t exist.
Marks out of 10: 7