I was quite excited when I heard that Julian Fellowes had signed on to write a new miniseries exploring the legendary Titanic tragedy. Fellowes is the reigning champion of upstairs/downstairs drama as evidenced by his Oscar winning screenplay for Altman's "Gosford Park" and his wildly successful production of "Downton Abbey." While that upscale soap opera is currently all-the-rage, it seemed a prime opportunity for Fellowes to branch out. Without a doubt, the class divisions, struggles and tensions aboard the Titanic certainly appeared to match his previous themes. And yet, while the idea seemed like an easy home run, "Titanic" (for all its elegance) is lacking in character drama that makes one actually care. The passengers on this ill-fated voyage are only superficially presented and their back stories are largely uninspired or entirely predictable. While there are still some good elements to "Titanic," therefore, I never felt the time investment in watching the four part miniseries paid off in any appreciable way.
The shortcomings of this particular trip rests almost squarely on the unimaginative screenplay. While I liked the idea of the overlapping structure of the show (each part presents different characters during the same pivotal time frame), it was an interesting narrative device that really didn't amount to much. The huge cast is impressive, but the characters lack dimension. A few stand-outs include Linus Roache (perhaps my favorite character, seen only sporadically after the first episode) as a progressive Earl, Toby Jones (always reliable) as a second class passenger dealing with a disappointed wife (The Tudor's Maria Doyle Kennedy in the series' most thankless role), and Glen Blackhall as an Italian immigrant working on the ship. But these and many more great actors are given an array of lackluster cliche's to serve up.
Plotlines include undying new love in the upper class, undying new love in the lower decks (two characters spend about 30 minutes of real time together before committing to a future), a married woman with an unexplored attraction to an enigmatic stranger, and all the class snobbery that one might expect. A few of the story threads showed signs of life but never get developed beyond the most perfunctory way. And if you're just waiting for the climatic sinking sequence, it lacks any type of visual impact. In the end, it's all about who will live and who will die. And as the show drew to its conclusion, I realized I didn't really care much one way or another. Truly a disappointment! KGHarris, 4/12.