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

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

by Rebecca Eaton


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670015351
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2013
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Preface Kenneth Branagh ix

Prologue xv

1 Letters from Maine 1

2 The Curtain Rises 9

3 Upstairs, Downstairs Take One 27

4 Apprenticeship 37

5 The Learning Curve 55

6 Mastering Masterpiece Theatre 69

7 The Balancing Act 91

8 A Changing of the Guard 113

9 Pitching the Pitchers 133

10 Dark Days 147

11 Made in America 161

12 Dusting Off the Jewel 183

13 But What Does an Executive Producer Do All Day? 207

14 The Road to Downton Abbey 225

15 Downton Abbey 249

16 The Downton Effect 269

Afterword 279

Acknowledgments 287

Index 293

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Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Stemline More than 1 year ago
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.
VachMD More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Babette-dYveine More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unrealistic, stupid and bad plot. You need to work on your writing skillz.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You're getting better. Keep trying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!)