Seeing black people on Masterpiece Theatre makes me think of the olden days of television when Black folks would call friends and family to let them know “coloreds on TV.” Tonight, Masterpiece Theatre debuts an adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island on PBS (first premiered on BBC in 2009). It’s the story of Hortense, a young Jamaican woman [the daughter of an unmarried, country girl and a high level Jamaican official] placed in the home of her father’s cousins where she has a roof over her head, but tepid relations with her relatives who expect her to work for her keep. Hortense has great dreams to be a teacher in England, a place she’s never seen. Many men from Jamaica have already gone overseas to fight World War II; some return. It is after the war that Hortense sets on the path of her dreams. And we can all guess what happens when one has grand dreams of a place of which you’ve only heard the hype.

I bought Levy’s book and am crashing to read a chunk of it before the premiere tonight. It’s well written and is a winner of the Whitbread award for Book of the Year. Like books, Masterpiece Theatre serves as pure escapism for me especially with their presentations of works by Jane Austen and other British authors. I also believe the mini-series is the best format for adapting works of literature for television or film. But now we have Levy, born of Jamaican parents and a British citizen, stepping up to the plate where “Upstairs Downstairs” reigned.

Small Island will address race (black) and class. Class is often the foundation for conflict in British drama. However, if one looked into the source of income for Jane Eyre‘s Mr. Rochester (British Jamaica), or Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, race would join hands with class, making their leading men more ominous than their first or even second impressions. Though for P&P it is really Mr. Bingley’s fortunes that are in question as they were “acquired by trade.” England ended the slave trade in 1807, around the time of Pride and Prejudice, but slavery had not ended in the British colonies. The other word that must enter into this drama is “colonialism.”

Masterpiece Theatre has come a long way in the last 15 years. One of their best mini-series set in modern times was Traffik the basis for the watered down American version. While in the process of writing his pilot for “Kingpin,” I recommended “Traffik,” the original version, to David Mills. There was no need to see the American version I said, though Dave did like and was inspired by the cinematography.

Maybe there is no escape but into the arms of a good story where perhaps one can find a little salvation.


In American drama, class is something you overcome with hard work and persistence. You don’t fight to overturn it, remove it, or redefine it. But the “bootstrap” mentality is more mental than it is reality. Okay, Phil Graham me on that one. Scientists have proven that it is humanly impossible to pull oneself up by your bootstraps. Apparently as you pull them up, the gravitational force on the body pulls you down. Everyone needs a little help I suppose.

E.J. Dionne has basically pegged this “Tea Party” as “same monkey, different outfit.” The demographic from the New York Times/CBS poll repeated ad nauseam by the press describes the majority of those who identify themselves as a member of the “party” as affluent, educated, working white boomer males.

This resembles the demographic of the groom and groomsmen at the church altar with Elaine in “The Graduate” before Ben broke up the wedding and the two hopped on the Santa Barbara local to where-eversville. Let’s remember, not everyone was into love, peace, liberation, and recreational mind alteration in the 60s. There were those who believed in plastic and matching bar and bar stools. They were Right Wing Republicans then; they’re Right Wing Republicans now and their world has changed even though they haven’t.

But for some reason the mainstream press, in its never-ending-quest for controversy and drama have shined a spot light on the Tea Party to “figure them out,” flesh out the story; something they rarely if ever do with immigration, poverty, LGBT activists, or any of the many for the attention paid to the few. Yet, 18% does exceed what Malcolm Gladwell coined as a “tipping point.”

Here’s a conspiracy theory. How do I know that the majority demographic isn’t made up of Wall Street bankers and their interests fronting as a “grassroots” movement?

The President of the United States has a special assignment for you. More transparency. Close the loopholes. More accountability and responsibility. Corporations want to be treated like individuals? Here are your boostraps. Let’s hope it’s not just political theater. I owed taxes this year and I pay them throughout the year. The Tea Partiers who enjoy their social security and medicare should thank ME!
Transcript here.