HBO's epic historical drama The Gilded Age has been getting great reviews, and it's clearly been doing great numbers too. While the season finale only aired last week, HBO has already confirmed that it will be making a third season of the show. That's great news for fans of what The Guardian's Chitra Ramaswamy says she loves "against my better judgement".
For Ramaswamy, and for many of her fellow critics, The Gilded Age is a show that should be much better but that somehow remains gripping. Scenery is chewed, dialog is often awful, history is messed with and the whole thing represents the "Downtown Abbey-fication of the past". And yet, and yet.
What's so compelling about The Gilded Age?
Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson calls it a "diverting dream" that offers "mild intrigue, majestically", and he does a great job of explaining the appeal: "I couldn’t help but grin as this silly final scene unfolded, an effect familiar to any of us who have spent time gloopily enamored of The Gilded Age or its predecessor, Downton Abbey. Both series, from creator Julian Fellowes, are polite and easy to the point of absurdity. Yet there is giddy pleasure in their busybody airiness, a soothing order that ignores many problems of these shows’ eras while amiably distracting us from our own."
Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall agrees: the show "contains plenty of delights" and "it is a grand and complicated tapestry". Decider's Liz Kocan says it's "serious and soapy... In looking back on a time where status was power and favors were currency, The Gilded Age is so compelling because spends the majority of its time with the women of the era, who wielded what power they had with abandon." With in-fighting, class warfare and "the sheer petulance of them... that's what makes good TV."
It's fair to say that The Gilded Age is aimed at a very different audience than, say, The Boys or Reacher. But like those shows it does what it sets out to do – entertain – and it does it incredibly well. As Liz Kocan says, it's "lavish, prestige TV... it's a delight."
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.