When my editor, Bel Hernandez, emailed me and asked if I would be interested in doing a view and review of the upcoming BBC One, Acorn TV original comedy mini-series, Decline and Fall with Eva Longoria, I immediately replied, “Absolutely.” How could I pass up the opportunity to watch anything with Eva Longoria in it? She’s goddam gorgeous!
Since her breakout role in Desperate Housewives, the lovely Latina superstar and San Antonio native has become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood and beyond. Not only is she a successful and sought after actress, but also a director, producer, business woman, philanthropist and political activist. And I can’t stress this point enough; she’s goddam gorgeous. Eva is bilingually beautiful as well. She’s been voted “Most Beautiful” in the Spanish and English-language versions of People magazine. I think she has almost perfected a cure for cancer too. She does it all.
As a proud Tex-Mex and longtime San Antonio resident, I was ready, willing and able to view and review anything starring Eva Longoria.
The fact that Longoria is starring, along with talented Brits, Jack Whitehall and David Suchet in the BBC One, Acorn TV first-time adapation of Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel, Decline and Fall was a definite, added plus.
Many of you, I’m sure, remember the PBS British TV series, Brideshead Revisited, also adapted from an Evelyn Waugh novel. But whereas Brideshead is a poignant story of forbidden love and lost innocence, Decline and Fall is a witty tale of a well-meaning, earnest young man, Jack Whitehall, who is unjustly kicked out of divinity school at Oxford and finds himself taking a position as a schoolmaster at a very dysfunctional school for boys.
Apparently, there are no mobile home parks in the English countryside. Going by the images presented by the many marvelous British productions of TV shows and films like Brideshead Revisited, Downton Abbey, Doc Martin, Howard’s End, Remains of the Day and now the BBC One and Acorn TV’s Decline and Fall, England is landscaped in lush greenery with narrow, winding roads weaving their way past quaint villages dotted with cute, cozy cottages and the occasional majestic, stately manor populated and ruled by a Lord Something-or-Other. The scenery, architecture and Old World atmosphere are important characters in these delightful dramas and comedies of English manners, social status and a desperate desire to cling to their long-held traditions.
And such is the case in Waugh’s Decline and Fall. Our hero, Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) is teaching German and music at one of those classic, English boys schools that appears to be all stone, deep, dark wood and musty, poorly-lit interiors. Pennyfeather is completely unqualified to teach either German or music, but no matter, he ingratiates himself to the headmaster and his students. Especially his music student, Peter (Oscar Kennedy) whose mother just happens to be the rich, flamboyant and eccentric Margot Beste-Chetwynde (Eva Longoria).
Pennyfeather is instantly smitten with Margo because, well, she’s goddam gorgeous and she offers him a tutoring position at her estate during the school holiday. Complications arise as Pennyfeather gets involved in Margot’s Latin American Entertainment business
Decline and Fall, like many other British offerings of this genre, takes place in England during the pivotal period between the two Great Wars. Although Britain was on the winning side in World War I, that war marked the beginning of the end of the once glorious British Empire. It was often said the Sun never set on the British Empire. But after World War I, the English, especially the nobles, landed-gentry and upper middle-class, faced a new dawn, a new world with much uncertainty and anxiety.
The English need to steadfastly maintain their treasured traditions in the face of impending change, is the subtext of Decline and Fall. This is a society, a country, a people who do not want mobile home parks blighting their countryside. It’s a country that is now second-guessing Brexit; not fully knowing what the future holds for England. The title, Decline and Fall, is a wistful, prophetic wink at that inevitability.
Like Oscar Wilde before him and his contemporary, Noel Coward, Evelyn Waugh is a master at exquisitely capturing that fabled British “stiff upper lip” and aplomb with his pithy, acerbic, erudite dialog. Even without the enhancement of the rich production values, Decline and Fall would be a thoroughly enjoyable experience just listening to the music of the language.
The tall, lanky Whitehall is charming and winsome as Pennyfeather. His boyish good looks are well-suited for this part. Longoria once again proves she is quite adept at light comedy as the perfectly arch, Margot. The supporting cast are equally good and often outright hilarious, particularly Douglas Hodge as the irrepressible Grimes.
Evelyn Waugh, born Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, has a well-deserved plane in the pantheon of great English writers. Decline and Fall is considered one of his best works. Waugh’s Decline and Fall has style, wit, fantastic period costumes, quirky characters, romance, humor and great scenery. Like Eva Longoria, Decline and Fall is goddam gorgeous and well-worth watching.
The three-part mini-series premiered on Acorn TV on May 15, 2017 for more CLICK HERE