Making Masterpiece (Eaton)

Making Masterpiece:  25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!
Rebecca Eaton, 2013
Viking Press
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780670015351

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—November 7, 1947
Where—Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Raised—Passadena, California
Education—B.A., Vassar College
Awards—44 Primetime Emmy Awards, 15 Peabody Awards,
   4 Golden Globes
Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts

Rebecca Eaton is an American television producer best known for introducing American audiences to British costume and countryside dramas as executive producer of the PBS Masterpiece series.

Eaton was born in Boston and raised in Pasadena, California, her father a Caltech English literature professor, and her mother, Katherine Emery, an actress both on Broadway (in Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour) and in film. Eaton recalls visiting New York every summer to see Broadway shows, as well as spending her junior high school days lost in Jane Eyre.

Eaton attended Vassar, graduating in 1969 with a BA in English literature. Her senior thesis was on James Joyce's The Dubliners. In 1969-1970, she was a production assistant for the BBC World Service in London. Returning to the U.S., she was in 1972 hired by WGBH in Boston, there producing Pantechnicon (a radio arts magazine) and the television programs Zoom and Enterprise.

Eaton became the third executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre. Christopher Sarson was at the helm from its inception in 1971. Sarson had bought Upstairs, Downstairs from ITV. Eaton succeeded the series' second executive producer, Joan Wilson, in 1985.

Under Eaton, Masterpiece extended its reach into feature film co-production, for such films as Jane Austen's Persuasion and Mrs. Brown, starring Dame Judi Dench.

By 2011, she had been executive producer of the show for more than 25 of its 40 years on the air.

Personal life
Eaton married in 1984 sculptor Paul Robert Cooper. The couple's daughter was born shortly before Eaton was named executive producer of Masterpiece. She credits her husband's willingness to stay at home with having advanced her career.. (FromWikipedia. Retrieved 10/10/2013.)

Book Reviews
[T]he author's career path to executive producer of Masterpiece seems to have been predestined.... 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.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Making Masterpiece:

1. Rebecca Eaton says, "Brought up on a steady diet of classic British literature, I'm amazed at the inevitability that my life's work has turned out to be as a purveyor of this particular opiate."
How did Rebecca Eaton's upbringing shape her role as executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery?

2. Oh, and what does she mean by "opiate"?! (See question 1.)

3. Does her job sound enviable to you...or difficult and anxiety-provoking?

4. Do you agree with Eaton's assessment of the hyper-popularity of Downton Abbey? What are the reasons you think it has become a such a mega-hit?

5. Eaton talks about the need to bring in younger audiences. What is her plan...and do you think it will work? In other words, what do you think the future holds for MpT and Msytery?

6. Are your suprised at the myriad technical details that go into making a TV show?

7. Which episodes in Eaton's book, which behind the scenes incidents, do you find most fascinating?

8. Whom would you most like to meet among all the individuals Eaton writes about?

9. Which are your favorite MpT or Mystery! programs...and why?

10. Why do the shows all come from the U.K.? Do MpT and Msytery! have any relevance to U.S. culture? Or do they feed into a segment of Anglophiles who love anything British while disdaining American culture? If so, should U.S. taxpayers foot the bill? Why do YOU watch MPT and Mystery? Why do ANY of us?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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