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A marriage and a world on the brink: Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall in Parade’s End.

Parade’s End

Available from Feb. 27 until Aug. 25 at HBO Canada On Demand and online at RogersAnyplaceTV.com.

In a world saturated by Downton Abbey sentimentality, it’s a refreshing treat to be properly swept away by an old-fashioned British costume drama that truly earns your loyalty without cutting corners toward the quick-buck emotional pay-off.

Not unlike Downton Abbey, this five-part BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End quartet paints an old society blown apart by the First World War, undergoing rapid modernization while navigating mutating moral values.

While Downtown Abbey pretends to be nothing more than a finely dressed version of Dynasty with better crockery, more lace-up girdles and a posher class of raised-eyebrow, Parade’s End is the real deal – Downton Abbey with more than two brain cells to rub together.

It is unashamedly literary (adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard), cerebral, epic, highbrow, luxurious, full of class and, oh yeah, sex.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Atonement) plays a “very proper” aristocratic Tory government statistician who despises the evils of modernity and permissiveness, clings smugly onto the past, believes steadfastly in monogamy and chastity yet finds himself embroiled in a love triangle – with a vindictive and unfaithful wife (Rebecca Hall) on one side and a beautiful young suffragette mistress (Adelaide Clemens) on the other. Oh my.

Ah, forbidden love! Oh, to be a “good man”! But what becomes of the emotionally crippled when the Old World Order comes crashing down?

  • Canadian broadcast premiere: Feb. 26, 27 and 28, 2013
  • On demand until: Aug. 25, 2013
  • Channel: HBO Canada
  • Number of episodes: 5

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