Television Business International

Mr Selfridge

Mr Selfridge stars Jeremy Piven as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the man who launched the London department store. Set in London between 1909 and 1939, ITV Studios will launch the high-end drama series at MIPCOM.

The show taps into renewed interest in UK period drama, but is international in tone and feel, says ITV Studios Global Entertainment MD, Maria Kyriacou.

Mr Selfridge is not defined by being British, it’s actually a quintessentially American story about a guy who came from nowhere, and it is not a class-based piece of British history. There’s a huge openness in places including the US at the moment for high-end UK drama, but this is not defined by the territory it comes from.”

The show starts with a 90-minute opener, which is followed by nine one-hour episodes. The story arc follows Harry and his family, staff, business partners and adversaries from the opening of his huge London store. London provides the backdrop and the series captures London life in that era, from the boardroom to the theatres and the back streets.

The period element is secondary to Mr Selfridge being an engaging tale, Kyriacou adds. “It’s not about it being a period piece, it’s just a good story from a great writer and it has much higher production values than other shows out of the UK. That and the cast elevate it above most of the other drama out there.”

The series is written by Andrew Davies who has penned a raft of well-known period pieces for TV including Little Dorrit, Fanny Hill and Northanger Abbey. He also wrote Sense and Sensibility for Masterpiece, the primetime drama strand for PBS in the US.

ITV Studios has presold Mr Selfridge to PBS as well as Seven Network in Australia, SVT in Sweden and Yes in Israel. Increasingly, international territories are opening up to UK period pieces and ITV hopes to seal a raft of deals at MIPCOM.

Piven, the star of Entourage, leads the cast, but the show is an ensemble drama. Other stars include French actor Grégory Fitoussi (Spiral), who plays Henri Leclair, the creative director of Selfridge’s in 1909.

Mr Selfridge and Sundance Channel’s death row drama Rectify are the two big drama launches for ITV Studios at MIPCOM and Kyriacou claims that the distributor’s current scripted offering is the best of any Europe-based sales house. “I think we have the best drama slate of anyone coming out of Europe this year,” she says.

The show: Mr Selfridge
The producer: ITV Studios
The distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Airing: ITV1 (UK)
Concept: 1x90mins + 9x60mins period drama about retail genius Harry Selfridge