Mapp and Lucia

Mapp and Lucia

1985 - United Kingdom

Set in the refined 1920s and 1930s, this whimsical tale revolves around one-upwomanship and matriarchal rivalry in a picturesque seaside town between the melodramatic widow Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas (played by Prunella Scales) and the indomitable Elizabeth Mapp (portrayed by Geraldine McEwan) who lead us gloriously into their world, portraying two society mavens engaged in increasingly deranged warfare. Their absurdly entertaining battles for supremacy in social circles unfold against the picturesque backdrop of Tilling, closely based on Rye, East Sussex.

Mapp and Lucia encompasses a collection of novels penned by E. F. Benson published between 1931 and 1939, which brought together characters from three previous books. These delightful literary works delve into the lives of upper-middle-class British individuals within an environment steeped in cultural snobbery, where characters such as Emmeline and Elizabeth engage in humorous escapades, all while vying for social status.

Benson was a literary Swiss Army knife. His business card probably read: “Novelist, Biographer, Memoirist, Archaeologist, and Professional Word Wrangler.” He had burst onto the scene in 1893 with his debut novel, Dodo. It was so fashionably controversial that everyone was gossiping about it. Benson’s secret? He sprinkled each page with a dash of intrigue, a pinch of romance, and a smidgeon of supernatural melodrama. Voilà! Literary magic.

But wait, there’s more!

Benson wasn’t content with just one hit. He cranked out sequels faster than a caffeinated monkey at a typewriter. But his pièce de résistance was the Mapp and Lucia series. Imagine Downton Abbey meets Real Housewives of Sussex. Lucia, the melodramatic widow, and Mapp, the Queen Bee, engaged in social combat more intense than a game of Monopoly during a family reunion. Their weapon of choice? Passive-aggressive compliments. “Oh, dear Mapp, your hat is positively…unique.”

Mapp and Lucia
Irene Handl as Poppy, Duchess of Sheffield apeared in one episode

This series is like a delightful fruit salad. Imagine a bowl filled with E.F. Benson’s juicy novels, tossed with a pinch of essential deviations, and garnished with timeless character studies. It’s the kind of salad that makes you chuckle while savouring each bite. Picture it: A cozy drawing room in post-WWI England, where people sip tea, gossip about the latest hat styles, and secretly plot to outdo each other in the village hierarchy. Class distinctions hang in the air like overripe bananas—sweet, yet slightly bruised.

Enter our cast of characters: Georgino, played by the brilliant Nigel Hawthorne, who juggles social etiquette like a seasoned acrobat, Godiva 'Diva' Plaistow (Mary Macleod) and 'Quaint' Irene Coles (Cecily Hobs), the endearing duo, discussing the scandalous affairs of the local knitting club. And then there’s Mapp, portrayed by the incomparable Prunella Scales. She’s the queen bee, the spider at the centre of the web, orchestrating tea parties and matchmaking with the finesse of a seasoned sommelier.

Mapp and Lucia

As the plot thickens, we discover hidden secrets, forbidden romances, and the occasional ghost (because what’s a good story without a spectral cameo?). The Padre’s wife and the Wyse’s daughter may be missing from the novels, but fear not—they’re probably off having their own quirky adventures in a parallel universe.

So, my dear reader, grab your monocle, adjust your cravat, and dive into this delightful series. It’s like a Bakewell Tart for the literary soul—sweet, a tad nutty, and guaranteed to leave you smiling.

Published on May 1st, 2024. Written by Rex Brady for Television Heaven.

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