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Masterpiece Theatre: A Celebration of 25 Years of Outstanding Television

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Masterpiece Theatre: A Celebration of 25 Years of Outstanding Television Terrence O’Flaherty (KQED Books, $24.95) For those who set aside their Sunday nights as a sacrosanct time for the worship of Dickens, Eliot, and Thackeray comes Masterpiece Theatre: A Celebration of 25 Years of Outstanding Television. O’Flaherty has crammed the retrospective with descriptions of 30 programs; color photographs; and interviews with such Masterpiece Theatre figures as Jeremy Irons, Jean Marsh, and screenwriter Andrew Davies (Middlemarch). Among its fascinating tidbits: Members of the I, Claudius cast didn’t know how to play their parts until the scriptwriter told them to think of the Mafia; Glenda Jackson insisted on shaving her head to play the aged Elizabeth I; Alistair Cooke, scorning TelePrompTers, did all the research for his introductions and then memorized them. One wishes that the plot synopses were on a more erudite level (on I, Claudius: ”It is unfortunate enough to have a grandma like Livia, but he also has a crazy nephew named Caligula”), but for most tea-and-Wimbledon-loving Anglophiles, this tribute will do very nicely. B

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