I loved the first two seasons of The
House of Eliott, about two sisters in 1920s London who take on
the challenge of starting a fashion house from scratch. The second
season, in 1992, ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, all the more so
because at the time that I saw it, I didn't realize that there was a
third season. After a year's gap, 1994 saw the third and final season
of The House of Eliott. This season had a hard act to follow,
after the high quality of the first two seasons, and unfortunately we
do see here what I'd expected to see (but had been pleasantly
surprised about) in Season 2: a loss of the energy and narrative
punch that had been characteristic of the series.
The ten episodes that make up Series
3 aren't bad; remember that we're comparing them to an exceptionally
strong pair of previous seasons. What happens here is that the "soap
opera" aspect of the series expands considerably, to the
detriment of a really engaging narrative thread. In the earlier
seasons, there was always that soap opera flavor, but it was only
part of the overall tapestry of the show; the focus of the story was
on the sisters' trials and tribulations in establishing, and then
maintaining, the House of Eliott. Their personal lives, and the lives
of the secondary characters, were of interest, but the main appeal of
the show was its strong sense of narrative: the drama and tension of
what was going to happen not just to Bea and Evie, but to the House
In Series 3, the one story element
that's potentially of the same caliber as the earlier seasons'
narrative threads is the House of Eliott's venture into "ready
to wear" clothing. There are a number of complications that
arise, and some interesting and tense goings-on in relation to the
ready-to-wear venture and to the House of Eliott's survival as a
fashion house when haute couture starts to decline in popularity.
However, this section of the story doesn't start until fairly late in
the season, and it's not developed nearly as much as it could have
Stella Gonet and Louise Lombard
continue to do good work in their roles as sisters Bea and Evie
Eliott, despite not having material as substantial as in the first
two seasons. Jack Maddox (Aden Gillett) remains an important
character, and a sizable amount of story time is devoted to his
attempts to settle on the right career, going from film to journalism
to a brush with politics. Some of this material is interesting, as we
get to see a glimpse of the workers' London, beyond the high style
and elegance of the Eliott sisters' London. It still doesn't feel as
lively as the story threads involving Jack in Series 1 or 2, though.
Another slight step down for Series
3 is that the secondary characters are not as well-rounded here as in
the earlier seasons. Larry Cotter and Grace Keeble provide a counter
to the Eliott sisters, bringing some tension into the House of Eliott
as Bea and Evie attempt to deal with changing market conditions for
clothing. However, they're fairly two-dimensional, without the
complexity or depth that we saw in characters like Series 1's Aunt
Lydia and Cousin Arthur.
One point in Series 3's favor is
that the final episode steers clear of a maudlin "happily ever
after" ending; we get some surprises and genuine dramatic
tension. Part of this might have been in the hopes of getting a
fourth season (which didn't happen) but in any case, it does make the
conclusion of the series more memorable than it otherwise would have
been. I wish that some of the events implied in the final episode had
been introduced and developed throughout the whole season, though.
The House of Eliott: Series Three
is a four-DVD boxed set. Each disc is in an ultra-slim plastic
keepcase, with the four cases inside a glossy paperboard slipcover.
The episodes are presented in their
original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The picture quality is good, with
the image looking clean, clear, and bright. Colors look natural, and
contrast is handled well.
The Dolby 2.0 track is a bit on the
muted side (I had to turn up the volume a bit more than usual) but
the overall sound quality is satisfactory. The dialogue is clean and
clear, with no audio problems.
Cast filmographies are the only
special feature included.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Series
1 and Series
2 of The House of Eliott, I found that Series 3 didn't
live up to expectations. The ten-episode third season still ended up
being modestly entertaining, it lacks the narrative snap and drama of
the previous seasons. Still, if you enjoyed The House of Eliott
so far, it's hard to pass up the third season and a chance to see the
characters go through new adventures. As long as you don't mind that
the third season leans more toward soap opera than serious drama, I
can give Series 3 a mild "recommended" rating.