I adore both the actresses Frances O'Connor and Zoe Tapper, and have seen them in many other television series and films, and Frances O'Connor on the West End stage. They are not "unknowns". They are skilled and talented jobbing actors. And I am not familiar with the actor playing Mr Selfridge, but I am enjoying his performance very much.
This is social history mixed with economic history mixed with melodrama and sensuality (Andrew Davies - Mr-Darcy-in-wet-shirt-creator - is the writer) mixed with beautiful dresses and perfumes. Personally I go for the first two, and my five-year-old daughter goes for the last one. (She can never have too many pretty dresses in her life.)
It is based on the real life history of Harry Selfridge, an American who moved to Britain and opened London's first modern-style department store in around 1908. Everything he does is radically different to what everyone else is doing, and he deals with every obstacle with great exuberance and enthusiasm, that is very different to what other British period dramas depict. I love that energy.
There are guest appearances from other historical characters of the day - the ballerina Anna Pavlova, writer Conan Doyle, a Frenchman who flew the Channel for the first time, gangs of rather glammed-up Suffragettes - as well as lots of pointing out that it is a new century and a new world, with cars and planes and suchlike changing life as everyone knows it. I'm actually very interested in the Edwardian period of history for precisely that reason. I especially love the minute aspects of history that come into the programme, like make-up having to be sold under the counter because it's linked with being an escort, or comments about how the shop girls automatically have to resign if they get married - it's a lovely introduction to the female side of history.
So currently it's my favourite show on television, and I actually prefer it to "Downton Abbey."