Imaginary Miniseries I Would Enjoy More than Downton Abbey

by Molly Pohlig

“The Fall of the House of Bedlam”

Set in a quaint mental institution in the English countryside post WWI, our heroine is Phyllida Bedlam, a virginal young woman from a good family who is suffering from postpartum depression after a hysterical pregnancy. Having been previously imprisoned in a much more sinister asylum where her beautiful hair was shorn and sold, she now roams the halls of the ward at night, snipping locks of the other patients’ hair, which she amasses for the purpose of fashioning a hair-baby which can benefit from her maternal affection. Tentatively, she embarks upon a doomed affair with a one-armed shell-shocked soldier, but he is only after her money, and soon he enters into a suicide pact with a bitter spinster nurse. Eventually, Phyllida finds true love with Gerald, a baker with Tourette’s Syndrome, and they must convince her upper-crust (there will be a lot of puns upon this theme) family that he is worthy.

“The Mitfords”

Why there hasn’t been a dramatic miniseries on the Mitfords so far is beyond me! Approximately 58% of the women I know own that enormous biography of them, although I have yet to meet anyone who’s made it beyond page ten (and any attempts are invariably made during some deep depression).Our miniseries can start in the ’20s, when the oldest of the six girls were entering their teens and the youngest had just been born, and the fashions alone will be worth tuning in for. I’m just gonna drop this quote from Lynn Barber here: “Diana the fascist, Decca the Communist, Unity the Nazi and Debo the duchess, Nancy the novelist and whatshername who kept chickens and had a blue Aga to match her eyes.” Every Hollywood actress worth her salt will be jonesing to play Unity: that bit when she comes back to England with a self-inflicted bullet (from a pearl-handled gun given to her by Hitler!) still in her head is sure-fire Oscar bait.

“Law and Order: Special Victorian Unit”

In the criminal justice system, offenses of a certain unmentionable nature are considered especially heinous. In London, the dedicated bobbies who investigate these vicious felonies that we shall not describe further for decency’s sake are members of an elite regiment known as the Special Victorian Unit. These are their stories. Christopher Meloni stars as Detective Eliot Stablingham, a former soldier in the British Raj who has seen much suffering. Dann Florek is Chief Donald O’Crag, the hard-drinking son of an Irish prostitute, who abhors violence to women, at least when he’s sober, which is never. Their cases consist mostly of chasing down third-rate Jack the Ripper leads, as all of the other Jack the Ripper shows are getting the hot tips, and weakly protesting against child labor laws. Sadly, none of your other old favorites from “Law and Order: SVU” will be able to appear, since Ice-T, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Belzer, and B.D. Wong all fail to meet the minimum entrance requirements of being a white Christian male.

“Who Wants to Marry Henry VIII?”

Hilary Mantel recently casually mentioned that the third Thomas Cromwell novel could take decades, a possibility that gives me sweaty palms and a knot in my stomach. To fill the void, how about a dramatic retelling of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII,” but as a long-running reality show? It’s all there: scheming, poisonings, opulence, annulments, miscarriages, affairs, beheadings, etc. It’s basically the Kardashians in the 1500s. And while we’re at it, let’s get off this trend of having Henry VIII look like Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and all the wives with shiny hair and capped teeth and implants. RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman, we’ll have to settle for Oliver Platt at his sweaty best here. And I want the wives all to look like they don’t bathe regularly, have never visited a dentist, and only exercise when they need a new bolt of woad silk to finish their tapestries.

“Proust by Candlelight”

I have recently begun the first volume of “Remembrance of Things Past” with the intent of plowing through the whole damn thing, and a little bit unexpectedly, I love it. This morning, while reading during my commute, I wanted to lie down on the subway floor because it was just so beautiful. What, I thought, could possibly make it better? Having it read by a succession of sexy French actors, in French, by candlelight. You don’t even have to turn the subtitles on if you find them too distracting. To appeal to everyone, there would be a selection of readers: quirky Mathieu Amalric, cozy Francois Cluzet, smoldering Romain Duris, thoughtful Melvil Poupaud, cutie-pie Tahar Rahim: there are 4,215 pages, so we can cast just about every good-looking French actor there is to do his bit. Just sitting in a leather armchair with a candle, a book, and a plate of madeleines.

Molly Pohlig lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. She is currently tweeting her way through Proust, all seven volumes, at @poppycockltd.