Masterpiece Theater: The Ginger Tree

It’s a British-Japanese coproduction, and it’s the first show shot with the new high-definition television technique to air in America. But sharp and clear or not, the overriding question should be, is The Ginger Tree any good?

The answer is, yes, it gets good — after a while. This first installment of a four-part drama about a Scottish woman’s romance with a Japanese man is slow and boring, verging on an SCTV parody of Masterpiece Theatre.

Samantha Bond plays a young Scotswoman who in 1903 travels to Manchuria to marry a British army officer (Adrian Rawlins). He’s a stuffy twit who declines to consummate the marriage. She meets a gorgeous hunk of a Japanese nobleman (Daisuke Ryu) and has an affair which leaves her pregnant. The dissolution of the marriage concludes a very tiresome Part One.

But consider this episode a necessary prologue to the real action. In subsequent weeks, Bond moves to Japan to be with her lover, but it turns out that he’s married and has four children, that he wants Bond to be one of his concubines, that he wants to take away her big, beautiful, fat baby boy and give him to an upper-class Japanese family — as was the custom in those days, says series host Alistair Cooke. Holy cow! Do you think our heroine will stand for this? Of course not — she’s a plucky soul, and The Ginger Tree follows her brave actions as, penniless and man-less but always clutching that sweet baby, she makes her way up in the world. It’s just a video romance novel, but it’s a corker. B (Note: The grade is an average based on all four episodes.)

Masterpiece Theater: The Ginger Tree
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