Reviews for Making Masterpiece : 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS


Booklist Reviews 2013 November #1
In this thoroughly engaging memoir, Eaton recounts her 25 years as an executive producer of PBS's oft-lauded Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! series beloved for bringing British classics and popular detective series, respectively, to the small screen. After a year in England working for the BBC, ­American-born Eaton spent more than a decade working for public television in Boston before being tapped to executive-produce PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. From its inception in 1970, Masterpiece appeared on PBS with Mobil as a sponsor. Eaton stepped into her role in 1985, and she shares her successes here, from bringing Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson to Fortunes of War and getting Helen Mirren to sign on to Prime Suspect. She is equally candid about her missteps, from losing the 1995 Pride & Prejudice series starring Colin Firth to A&E to initially passing on Downton Abbey because of its similarity to the reboot of Upstairs Downstairs. Eaton is a warm and witty guide to Masterpiece Theatre's storied history, and this lively memoir will appeal equally to Downton diehards and longtime Masterpiece loyalists. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 October #1
Chronicling her 25-year career with PBS, Eaton provides a behind-the-camera look into the creative process involved in producing Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! As a self-described Anglophile ("Anglophilia is not a dirty word--it's an "honorable and manageable condition"), the author's career path to executive producer of Masterpiece seems to have been predestined. Eaton's mother was an actress on Broadway in the 1930s and a Hollywood contract player in the 1950s; her father taught Shakespeare and other literature at MIT and elsewhere. "Brought up on a steady diet of classic British literature," writes the author, "I'm amazed at the inevitability that my life's work has turned out to be as a purveyor of this particular opiate." The author combines personal anecdotes with interviews of writers, directors, hosts and numerous stars who contributed to her projects over the course of her career, including Alistair Cooke, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg and Gillian Anderson. For those interested in the technical aspects of producing a TV show, Eaton lays out the process, beginning with the project's initial stages through completion, including the delicate dance involved in fundraising. Eaton uses the Masterpiece program Cranford, starring Judi Dench, as her case study, and she also recounts her quest to rebrand Masterpiece for a younger demographic using marketing and social media as promotional tools. "Our social media presence for Downton [Abbey] season three created the highest-ever Twitter buzz for a PBS program," she writes. Eaton explores the possible explanations for the remarkable success of Downton, which "has catapulted Masterpiece into a whole new orbit of publicity, visibility, and popularity." A delightful trek into the world of TV production and a substantive treat for the truly addicted PBS fan. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #1

From its breakout hit Upstairs, Downstairs (1971) to the current phenomenon that is Downton Abbey, Masterpiece (both with and without the "Theatre") has maintained an iconic standing among viewers and has served as the first step for countless Americans on the road to full-blown Anglophilia. Executive producer Eaton tells the series' story with the help of dozens of the men and women who contributed, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, to its success. In addition to these sometimes charming, sometimes bawdy anecdotes, Eaton brings a strong personal element to the narrative. Whether responding to the sudden loss of corporate sponsorship, facing the challenge of replacing the one-and-only Alistair Cooke as host, or reflecting on the demands her career placed upon her family life, she is able to humanize what is sometimes seen as an impersonal area of the showbiz world. VERDICT A pleasing blend of memoir and retrospective with a wide audience appeal. Recommended for readers interested in the history of television and the business aspects of the creative process and, of course, PBS devotees.--Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

[Page 90]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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