The Pursuit of Love
- Brian Donaldson
- 9 May 2021
Another Sunday night drama that feels not of our times and way over the top
When you hear someone conclude that a TV show 'looks good', that is usually code for 'that's actually the only positive thing I can say for it'. So, the costume and production values on The Pursuit of Love are absolutely divine. There, that's got that out the way. The key question here is do we need yet another Sunday-night drama series about the relentless leisure time of the fantastically wealthy, set to the distant backdrop of unspeakable global horrors? Apparently so, according to the now Line of Duty-free BBC, and while the efforts of stellar cast members such as Andrew Scott, Lily James, Dominic West, and Emily Mortimer (who has adapted and directed this affair) are perfectly admirable, it feels like their time could have been better spent on something that spoke a little more loudly and potently about the here and now.
The original story by Nancy Mitford (don't worry, she wasn't one of those nasty Nazis in that family of socialites) is set in the 1930s and 40s but in order to claim how frightfully modern its concerns are, the three-parter features a soundtrack including New Order, Nina Simone, and John Cale (such scoring is an increasing trend in costume dramas that has rapidly become a risible cliché). We are told by Mortimer and others about how hilariously funny Mitford's novel was, but there's little evidence of that during its torpid three hours, the sole exception being a moment at the very start of episode two in which Freddie Fox beautifully satirises a very modern Tory politician with one movement of his body.
So is The Pursuit of Love an emotional ride? It might tug on the heartstrings of someone who has delivered a bad air-kiss at a crucial point in their life, but for the majority, the constant bellowing or whimpering of its characters will simply shred the nerves. Even for those who might not especially mourn the histrionic antics of AC-12 will wallow in the week-old nostalgia that comes with being delivered a new narrative that feels as irrelevant as it is irritating.
BBC One, Sunday 9 May, 9pm.