Producing Television Masterpieces   Leave a comment


Although I think Rebecca Eaton, long-time producer of Masterpiece (formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre) is an interesting person, I am thankful the focus of her book, Making Masterpiece, is on the series. To be honest, I knew nothing about Eaton before reading her book, but that’s how I discovered she’s so charming. Still, the show’s longstanding quality programming is what drew me to the title.

Eaton shares enough of her life to explain how she became executive producer in 1985. From there, she recounts anecdotes involving actors, producers and writers; many of whom share their own memories of their involvement in the series.

I remember when Alistair Cooke used to introduce the Sunday night programs; I also recall that Sesame Street created Alistair Cookie and Monsterpiece Theatre which mimicked the austerity often associated with classic British literature.


Eaton incorporates self-deprecating humor, which is most evident when she confesses to initially rejecting Downton Abbey as a possibility for Masterpiece. Of course, she soon realized the error of her judgment.

Masterpiece Theatre first aired in 1971. On Eaton’s watch several changes have occurred: the name has been altered and there are now three seasons: Classic, Contemporary and Mystery. She explains how this came about and also details, as much as is possible, the day-to-day duties of being an executive producer.

Among the book’s pleasures is being reminded of past programs, or learning of ones I missed. Most of all, if it’s possible, it’s made me even more excited for the next episode of Downton Abbey and Sherlock and …

Making Masterpiece
Four Bookmarks
Viking 2013
291 pages


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