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Once More Unto the PBS Breach! Hiddleston, 'The Hollow Crown' Arrive Stateside

By Sarah Carlson | TV Reviews | September 19, 2013 | Comments ()


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Starting tomorrow, PBS will air for the next four Fridays the kind of series it airs best: an already-ran-in-the-U.K. period piece. We’re used to getting such sloppy seconds, but this time, we’ve got Shakespeare, with kings played by not one but two much-loved men in the Pajiba realm: Ben Whishaw and Tom Hiddleston. (Jeremy Irons and Rory Kinnear get to play, too.) The Hollow Crown, aired as a part of PBS’s Great Performances, is a series of adaptations one of William Shakespeare’s history tetralogies — Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V. As the series has already aired overseas, is on DVD for Regions 2 and 4 and surely has been downloaded illegally more than a few times, fans have already dedicated many a Tumblr post to it, or more accurately, to Hiddleston.

This is one excited fandom, y’all:

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But hey, history is cool, and this sprawling production is bringing to life a set of Shakespeare’s plays that typically take a back seat to some of his other works when it comes to what actually gets taught in the standard high school English classroom. And if you’re watching the Starz/BBC original series The White Queen, which begins during the reigns of the two kings who succeeded Henry V (Henry VI and Edward IV) and runs up to the crowning of Henry VII, then you’ll received an entertaining (if perhaps not thorough) lesson on 100-plus years of English history. I’m crossing my fingers for a “Yorks versus Lancasters” category during pub trivia.

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Directed by Rupert Goold (Richard II), Richard Eyre (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and Thea Sharrock (Henry V),the series isn’t one big history lesson, however. The BBC ran its own version of the history plays back in the 1970s, but executive producer Sam Mendes told the New York Times he wanted a chance to revamp the tales, this time with location shoots and plenty of extras. The four plays lend themselves to film well considering the amount of action — there are plenty of battles to fight and thrones to claim or defendm — and even some romance. The wooing of Princess Katherine de Valois by Henry V was previously made memorable when Kenneth Branagh directed himself and his soon-to-be-wife Emma Thompson in 1989’s Henry V. Here, Mélanie Thierry plays the princess who takes a bit of convincing to marry the king.

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Hiddleston receiving much of the limelight for the series isn’t out of order. His Prince Hal is only missing from the first play, and for the rest, he grows from a wild and defiant young man to a ruler mature and good enough to inspire men in battle. Richard II and Henry IV aren’t without their own stories to tell — “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” is a line the latter gets to utter, after all. There’s plenty to behold here as these rulers grapple with power and responsbility. Shakespeare is timeless because the themes he covered and stories he told are timeless. The Hollow Crown appears to be a welcome addition to the adaptation pool.

Other familiar faces you’ll see here and there in the production by Neal Street Productions, NBCUniversal Internatinonal and THIRTEEN include Rory Kinnear (as a young Henry IV), Julie Walters, Simon Russell Beale, Patrick Stewart, Iain Glen and Michelle Dockery.

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So. Tears may be shed …

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Along with clothes …

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But there will be reasons to smile.

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A shoot arrows.

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And look hard-core.

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So, join the history nerd party. It’s fun in here.

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The Hollow Crown airs at 9 PM (check local listings) Fridays on PBS.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • fluff_fluff

    I'm overcome with the urge to talk about Ben Whishaw's spectacular saint/Christ poses several days too late.

  • webelos8

    Awwwyeah. I can't wait!

  • Kris

    I can't wait to see if Hiddleston can deliver the lines "therefore was I created with a stubborn outside, with an aspect of iron/that, when I come to woo ladies, I fright them" with a straight face. Are we taking bets?

  • Leigh

    It's already on YouTube. He KILLS that scene in all the best ways.

  • interiris

    Watched them on TV as well as DVDS. Ben is brilliant as Richard but it was Hiddleston who blew me away. I had no idea who he was at the time but I just could not take my eyes off him. The play within a play scene had me laughing and shedding a tear and Hal,s confrontations with his father were electric. Henry Vth was the icing on the black forest gateau.Its pretty epic.

  • Slash

    This does sound pretty groovy. Not sure why Henry VIII, Liz I and Victoria seem to get all the attention in movies. There were scads of English/British monarchs, and the history is full of all kinds of shenanigans. They could do a movie a year about each monarch (going back to the first one, Æthelstan, according to Wikipedia) and not repeat one for several decades, at least.

  • emmalita

    I have to say I'm a little shocked at the lack of fainting and panty waving going on here today. Are we being more decorous because it's Shakespeare? William wasn't all that decorous himself. Is it because the shirtless picture of the Hiddles also comes with him in a dirty towel? Or did we, ahem, expend all our enthusiasms on Mr. Cavill?

  • Jerce

    Hiddleston is lady-magic; there's no denying it. But I think this afternoon's commenters are more excited about being able to binge on Willy The Shake for several Fridays in a row. I know I am.

    If you come back this evening, you will probably encounter much panty-tossing, panty-waving, panty-dropping and other panty hijinks, along with fainting and swooning and whole prides of frolicking lions.

  • Uriah_Creep

    That was a strangely poetic statement. Panty hijinks for all!

  • emmalita

    I won't lie. My lions are as excited about the Shakespeare as they are about the pretty. I am particularly fond of this cycle of plays.

  • Salieri2

    Well, I was moved to exclaim Holy fucking shitballs!, so I hope that helps. Hiddleston as Henry V? Stock up on the roasted meats and pints of ale and settle in at my house.

  • emmalita

    That does help. Thanks!

  • Harvey Jerkwater

    AAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW YEAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

    That is all.

  • alannaofdoom

    DITTO.

  • BWeaves

    1. I read that Yorks and Lannisters, sigh.

    2. Henry V gets all the funny lines. Well, him and the French princess' lady in waiting. I remember seeing the Branagh version in the theatre and hubby and I were the only ones laughing at the jokes. Everyone was looking at us like we were obnoxious, and we were looking at everyone else like they must be idiots.

  • Jerce

    Thank you for the GIFs. Thank you SO MUCH for the GIFs.

    I had been having a bad day...

  • Lisa Bee

    Oh my goodness, Ben Whishaw is FANTASTIC as Richard.
    I actually decided to write my English term paper last semester on Richard II because this performance just made me understand it all the more. Although I couldn't stop laughing when he lay face down on the floor and just kind of chucked his crown away from him... Soooo bitchy, but soooo fabulous.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    So utterly fabulous, so utterly different from everything else he's ever done, and dearly makes me wish I could see his Hamlet, because apparently he blew the doors off with that one as well.

  • bittergrace

    if you ever find yourself in london you can watch a recording of his hamlet at the v&a archives. all you have to do is email them to set an appointment. he is beyond amazing in it. even his snot is mesmerizing!

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Goodness, thank you! ONE DAY, I WILL.

  • Anne At Large

    Ooooh, shiny.

    Also, has anyone else started seeing sexy ads for theCW's Mary, Queen of Scots show? Olde English history is so hip with the kids these days!

  • luthien26

    I am so there.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Don't forget tennis balls. There will be tennis balls.

    This looks exciting and delightful. I think I shall tivo it and have a viewing party, followed by the watching Holy Grail with those Shakespearean subtitles.

    Richard II is a beautiful play, and that Katherine/Henry V scene is one of the most delightful ever written.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    HUZZAH!

  • emmalita

    So much more appropriate than my fist pumping "woooo!"

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    That header pic sold me before I clicked the link.

    And Hiddles as Hal? All I need to make this perfect is Idris introducing the segments on PBS, then I can just die happily.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    As much as I enjoy the future Sir Hiddleston here, Ben Whishaw's Richard II is where it's at: A truly astounding performance with the greatest, and I cannot stress this enough, GREATEST meltdown in the history of televised Shakespeare.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    As if I needed a reason to stay home on Friday nights.

  • lowercase_see

    So is it Friday yet?

  • Ian Fay

    Sold.

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