Gillian Anderson prepares for her “Masterpiece”


Scully is hosting the venerable
PBS series Masterpiece Theatre? Someone call Mulder; there has
to be paranormal activity at work here. Gillian Anderson

has signed on as one of
the new hosts
the upcoming season of the newly revamped PBS mainstay. Yes, I said
one of the new hosts, because the popular series will now be served three
ways: Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery!
and Masterpiece Contemporary. Gillian will host Masterpiece
, which will feature period pieces and run January to May.
The other flavors will run summer and fall, respectively. Those hosts
will be announced next year.

At first glance, Gillian’s
new gig might elicit a “bahwah?” But when given a couple seconds
to sink in, it actually makes perfect sense. Gillian is no stranger
to the Masterpiece audience. In January 2006, she was nominated
for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Lady Dedlock in the critically acclaimed
BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.

And she is no stranger to costume
dramas, having starred as Lily Bart in the 2000 adaptation of Edith
Wharton’s House of Mirth. And, heck, she isn’t even a stranger
to England, since she lives in London. All in all, it’s kind of —
well — genius.

Bringing in the X-Files
star is a move toward attracting a younger, possibly hipper, audience.
She is a marked departure from the show’s two previous hosts, the
legendary Alistair Cooke (1971–1992) and former New York Times columnist Russell
Baker (1992–2004). As much as I loved the distinguished and urbane Mr.
Cooke, I will say that Gillian is by far the hottest host in the show’s
37-year history.

Program executive producer

Rebecca Eaton told The New York

that longtime fans shouldn’t worry that the changes to the show’s
packaging and scheduling will have an effect on its content. “We’re
not tarting it up or dumbing it down. We’re making it as easy as possible
to find and get into the programs,” she said. True enough. People
have called Gillian many things over the years, but I doubt
“tart” and “dumb” have ever been lobbed her way.

Up first for Anderson’s new
Classic season will be Persuasion, beginning Jan. 13. The presentation
is part of a series called The Complete
Jane Austen
— this is the marathon globalgrrl gleefully blogged about in November. The series represents the first time all of the author’s books will be shown together
on television. OK, sorry: Dana Scully and Jane Austen? It’s like the weirdest, best
femslash ever.



The new Masterpiece

will do away with old intro’s book-filled study and will go instead with
a simple studio. Also gone will be most of the familiar refrains of
Jean-Joseph Mouret’s brass fanfare “Rondeau.” According to the
Times, only snippets will be used in the opening. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Add
an attractive actress, great. Do away with the stuffy library, fine.
But get rid of those signature horns? Sacrilege! I grew up in a PBS/NPR
family. That’s what we did on Sunday nights. But I will try to adjust.
Just as long as they don’t use techno. Technopiece Theatre
could you imagine? Shudder.

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