Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS

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Overview

The Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! reveals the secrets to Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and its other hit programs

For more than twenty-five years and counting, Rebecca Eaton has presided over PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre, the longest running weekly prime time drama series in American history. From the runaway hits
Upstairs, Downstairs  and The Buccaneers, to the hugely popular Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect,...

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Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS

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Overview

The Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! reveals the secrets to Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and its other hit programs

For more than twenty-five years and counting, Rebecca Eaton has presided over PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre, the longest running weekly prime time drama series in American history. From the runaway hits
Upstairs, Downstairs  and The Buccaneers, to the hugely popular Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, and Poirot, Masterpiece Theatre and its sibling series Mystery! have been required viewing for fans of quality drama.

Eaton interviews many of the writers, directors, producers, and other contributors and shares personal anecdotes—including photos taken with her own camera—about her decades-spanning career. She reveals what went on behind the scenes during such triumphs as Cranford and the multiple, highly-rated programs made from Jane Austen’s novels, as well as her aggressive campaign to attract younger viewers via social media and online streaming. Along the way she shares stories about actors and other luminaries such as Alistair Cooke, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe, whose first TV role was as the title character in David Copperfield.

Readers will also get to know Eaton on a personal level. With a childhood steeped in theater, an affinity for nineteenth century novels and culture, and an  “accidental apprenticeship” with the BBC, Eaton was practically born to  lead the Masterpiece and Mystery! franchises. Making Masterpiece marks the first time  the driving force behind the enduring flagship show reveals all.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Rebecca Eaton, the Emmy Award-winning executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre, describes her beloved PBS show as "the little black dress" of television. And like that little black dress, the longest running weekly prime time drama series in history possesses a resilience that few would have predicted. In Making Masterpiece, Eaton reminisces about the show and its numerous notable actors; but she does much more, serving up penetrating interviews with the writers, directors, producers, and other participants in a show that has been credited with revitalizing interest in nineteenth century classics. Eaton's account, which is highlighted by her own photographs, also discusses how the recent popularity of Masterpiece series like Prime Suspense, Inspector Morris, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey have revitalized its offerings.

Library Journal
11/01/2013
From its breakout hit Upstairs, Downstairs (1971) to the current phenomenon that is Downton Abbey, Masterpiece (both with and without the "Theatre") has maintained an iconic standing among viewers and has served as the first step for countless Americans on the road to full-blown Anglophilia. Executive producer Eaton tells the series' story with the help of dozens of the men and women who contributed, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, to its success. In addition to these sometimes charming, sometimes bawdy anecdotes, Eaton brings a strong personal element to the narrative. Whether responding to the sudden loss of corporate sponsorship, facing the challenge of replacing the one-and-only Alistair Cooke as host, or reflecting on the demands her career placed upon her family life, she is able to humanize what is sometimes seen as an impersonal area of the showbiz world. VERDICT A pleasing blend of memoir and retrospective with a wide audience appeal. Recommended for readers interested in the history of television and the business aspects of the creative process and, of course, PBS devotees.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-01
Chronicling her 25-year career with PBS, Eaton provides a behind-the-camera look into the creative process involved in producing Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! As a self-described Anglophile ("Anglophilia is not a dirty word--it's an "honorable and manageable condition"), the author's career path to executive producer of Masterpiece seems to have been predestined. Eaton's mother was an actress on Broadway in the 1930s and a Hollywood contract player in the 1950s; her father taught Shakespeare and other literature at MIT and elsewhere. "Brought up on a steady diet of classic British literature," writes the author, "I'm amazed at the inevitability that my life's work has turned out to be as a purveyor of this particular opiate." The author combines personal anecdotes with interviews of writers, directors, hosts and numerous stars who contributed to her projects over the course of her career, including Alistair Cooke, Maggie Smith, Diana Rigg and Gillian Anderson. For those interested in the technical aspects of producing a TV show, Eaton lays out the process, beginning with the project's initial stages through completion, including the delicate dance involved in fundraising. Eaton uses the Masterpiece program Cranford, starring Judi Dench, as her case study, and she also recounts her quest to rebrand Masterpiece for a younger demographic using marketing and social media as promotional tools. "Our social media presence for Downton [Abbey] season three created the highest-ever Twitter buzz for a PBS program," she writes. Eaton explores the possible explanations for the remarkable success of Downton, which "has catapulted Masterpiece into a whole new orbit of publicity, visibility, and popularity." A delightful trek into the world of TV production and a substantive treat for the truly addicted PBS fan.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670015351
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 80,367
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Eaton

Rebecca Eaton regards her decades-long stewardship of Masterpiece as the ideal job for the daughter of an English professor and an actress. She has been the executive producer of the show for twenty-eight of its forty-two years on the air. Awards on her watch include forty-three prime-time Emmy awards, fifteen Peabody awards, two Golden Globes, and two Academy Award nominations.

At Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! she extended the programs' reach with contemporary dramas; initiated co-productions with the BBC (Middlemarch, The Buccaneers); co-produced feature films such as Jane Austen's Persuasion and Mrs. Brown starring Dame Judi Dench; and oversaw the rebranding of the series in 2008. Queen Elizabeth II awarded her an honorary OBE (Officer, Order of the British Empire) in 2003.

She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spends time at the family house in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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(3)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2013

    Lots of money hunting; few stories or stars

    It turns out that most of Eaton's job consisted of begging for money to keep Masterpiece Theatre on the air. As a result, only a few of the many programs get much attention (Downton Abbey is an exception), and there are few portraits of the many fine actors who have appeared on the program. I was hoping for more about those topics, but if she is out hunting money, she probably didn't have time to become deeply involved in making the shows. Eaton is a charming writer, and she had one of those rare creatures, a competent copyeditor. An interesting look at how public television works.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2014

    Really enjoyable.

    I really enjoyed this book about the wonderful Masterpiece Theatre and Masterpiece. I learned a great deal about Alistair Cooke which I really liked to know. Truly a labor of love for the author who devoted so many years to the programming. The added perks of meeting and getting to know many talented writers, actors and celebraties. A good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    Me-me-me-me-me-me-me.

    Me-me-me-me-me-me-me.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    Awful story

    Unrealistic, stupid and bad plot. You need to work on your writing skillz.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    Foxstar to Redsky

    You're getting better. Keep trying.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    The story of how i came to be by redsky CHAPT. 2 THE FRIST FIGHT

    Redkits morning nap was iterupted with a loud THUMP. "What the..?" He looked out side and saw a wolf snoozeing under the shade. "Hey man this is a private tree no expilnations." He said. The wolf kept sleeping. Redkit ran back in his tree and grabed a walnut "if this dosent wake him up nothing will" he muttered. He pushed it to the opening hole "GERONIMO!" He shouted. The walnut fell hiting him with a KLUNK. The wolf looked up he was NOT happy. "What the fudge man?" He looked to see who did it. "Show your self" "up here" redkit said. The wolf saw him "you think your stronger than me?" He asked. Redkit noded. The wolf cracked up laghing heres why: redkits a kitten and the wolf is full grown however the wolf dosent have much expriance in fighting but redkit dose. "Alright then come and fight me kitty cat" the wolf said. Redkit hated being called that. So redkit jumped from the tree and landed on the wolfs face and stared to scratch. The wolf couldent get him off and five minutes later the wolf ran "see? I am stronger!" Redkit called after him. (Love it so far? Three good reviews to move on!)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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