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The Forsyte Saga: The Complete Series 
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The Forsyte Saga, in telling the remarkable story of a nouveau riche English family, introduced the world to a new kind of TV. Millions of people devoted the next half year of their lives to following the frank treatment of all the sins, foibles and peccadillos of the Forsytes and their circle. The passing decades can never the erase the memory of their extraordinary evenings with the Forsytes: Kenneth More as Jo, the philosophical outsider; Eric Porter as Soames, the grasping man of property; Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene, "born to be loved and to love" and in later episodes, Susan Hampshire in an Emmy-winning performance as Fleur, Soame's 'restless' daughter. With 150 characters, 2000 separate costumes and over 100 sets, this sprawling yet intimate saga continues to move, provoke and entrance viewers today.
The Forsyte Saga is often cited as the first television miniseries; it wasn't, but there's no question that it was a singular, powerful cultural phenomenon that deservedly got under the skin of European viewers in 1967. Today the 26-episode production, based on several novels and short stories by John Galsworthy, is a more timeless enterprise than many of the protracted British TV dramas that have followed. While it would be wrong to consider The Forsyte Saga high art, it's certainly a mesmerizing and inspired mix of theater, sprawling Victorian narrative, thinking man's soap opera, and some finely tuned, 1960s black-and-white production values that (especially when shot outdoors) are strikingly handsome.
Above all, Forsyte is driven by its characters--perhaps to an extreme, though the two-generation storyline makes no apologies for creating compelling people whose capacity for short-sighted blundering, bursts of grace, and slow-brewing redemption make them recognizably human. Eric Porter towers over everything as Soames Forsyte, a humorless attorney whose guiding principles of measurable value cause great heartache but slowly evolve, leaving him a graying, good father, arts patron, and sympathetic repository of memory. From the cast of 150 or so, other standouts include Susan Hampshire as Soames's troubled daughter, Nyree Dawn Porter as the wife of two very different Forsyte men, and Kenneth More as the family's artistic black sheep. --Tom Keogh
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Firstly, there was no music in the background that gets tend to be inserted to overdramatise a moment. We can see for ourselves how things are. It almost seems as if we are eavesdropping on the people that are talking.
Secondly, there are the remarkably long takes between scenes. The experienced and talented actors such as Kenneth More, Nyree Dawn Porter, Eric Porter and Susan Hampshire can play long scenes without constant changes of camera angles.
Though some many may be put off by it being filmed in black and white, they shouldn't be. It adds to the sense of occasion that it is far in the past. In the episode 'Birth of a Forsyte', it incorporates easily actual footage of Queen Victoria's funeral.
For anyone contemplating whether to buy this or the more recent version, there is no contest. This goes into incredible depth with the storylines and tells everything in full. The other glosses over or ignores so much.
A real bargain for any lover of quality drama.
I was therefore tempted to go back to the BBC's 1967 television adaptation, which shows the trilogy in 26 episodes, rather than the twelve episodes of the freer adaptation of the later version.
This work looks at the truth behind the veneer of an established, monied family, and how some of its members break with tradition. A son falls in love with his daughter's governess, and goes off to live with her, giving up his life of comfort to eke out a living as a painter. His daughter later grows up and falls in love with a bohemian architect. Another of the sons makes a bad marriage. A daughter marries a gambler who loses too much money.
But throughout the entire series - and trilogy of novels - this family is seen as losing its anchors as modernity catches up with it, and as people begin questioning the sacrosanct idea that "He's a Forsyte," as though that will get everyone through the tough times.
This TV series bears the mark of the times. Shot in black and white, it's fairly rigid, because of the type of cameras used. Some of the acting is a bit melodramatic, but the direction is interesting and, in some ways, innovative. While most of the series is shot like a play on a soundstage, some shots look like those used in French nouvelle vague films.
It's a fascinating series, a bit like Downton Abbey on a lower budget (I'm sure that Downton Abbey was strongly influenced by this series). While it shows its age, it still stands up today.
There are not many films or drama series that have endured as well as the Forsyte saga. The only other one that comes to mind, though from a few years later when colour TV in the UK was in its infancy, was Family At War - Complete Set [DVD] which was first broadcast on ITV in 1970. I have, however, recently purchased a DVD set of the The Pallisers [DVD]  which I am looking forward to viewing since, based on my experience with the Forsyte Saga, I'm expecting that after almost as many decades it will be every bit as enjoyable.
The picture quality is very good, bearing in mind that the series was made in 1967. It's in B&W, sure, but colour video from the 60s and 70s can look pretty iffy, so that's no disadvantage. In return for the lack of colour we get a clear, well-balanced and reasonably sharp image with decent contrast (but the occasional moment of dodgy lighting), and sound that, some poorly-miked moments aside, is also clear. There are one or two video glitches but that's no surprise give the age of the source material. It's a miracle, I suppose, that it wasn't all wiped, as happened so many videotaped programmes of the time.
Oh, and I appreciate that B&W cinematography is a perfectly valid art form, but it's also important to remember that middle-class Victorian interiors and clothes were typically richly coloured. It's only the fact that colour photography was not generally available at the time that gives us the impression that the era only existed in B&W. Look at some Victorian paintings if you have any doubt in the matter.