To say that my local PBS stations have been influential in opening up my world would be an understatement. I watched spellbound since I was a child. After Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was over, the television stayed tuned to PBS—and what life changing discoveries they presented! When Milwaukee PBS channel ten aired a Jean Cocteau film on a snowy afternoon, I was enraptured and determined to learn French, then went onto get a degree in French literature. The short story series encouraged me to seek out books and authors that made my elementary school librarian very curious. But Masterpiece, then known as Masterpiece Theatre, always the jewel in the PBS crown, introduced me to British drama and inspired me to act, read, seek out history and gently led me down the path of a determined Anglophile in ways that I would never have found without those incredible programs.
Fast forward decades and I am still an Anglophile and excited by Masterpiece, which I now watch on PBS SoCal, and what treasures each new season will bring. Fans worldwide were delighted this spring by the return of Sanditon, based on a few short chapters by Jane Austen with the story continued by revered British writer Andrew Davies. Hope had all but evaporated when the series was canceled after what we all thought would be Sanditon’s sole season with its agonizing unfinished story, but the determination of the fans was rewarded. Sanditon was granted two more seasons and the adventures of Charlotte Heywood continued!
To celebrate the second season, PBS SoCal held a contest for a “Sanditon Lawn Party and Season Two Finale Screening Event”. I saw a twitter post on the very last day to enter, so I rushed to fill out my form and enclosed the requested picture of my best Sanditon inspired outfit. My hobby is historical dancing, inspired by all those amazing Jane Austen adaptations watched on Masterpiece, so I carefully chose a photo, sent in my entry, and hoped.
A few days later I received the notification that I won tickets and then began the flurry of rejoicing and ironing costumes. My husband Robert is just as crazy for the English Regency era as I am and also a fan of Sanditon, so, last night, feeling very fortunate indeed, we dressed up and set off for the event and anxious to watch the sneak preview of Sanditon’s season finale.
PBS SoCal really knows how to throw a party. Permit me to quote Jane Austen when I say of the venue, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place more happily situated”. The Bel Air Bay club is just up a bluff off the Pacific Coast Highway, boasting incredible views of the ocean from a lush garden, and the perfect place to celebrate a series set in a seaside town. The charming, friendly staff at the Bel Air Bay Club helped set the mood. We were greeted by kind people from PBS SoCal with gifts of Masterpiece socks and pens then welcomed onto the lawn where we could play croquet, indulge in decadent treats and canapes, tea, coffee, fizzy water or wine, have photos taken, and chat with fellow PBS SoCal fans of Masterpiece and Sanditon. Costumes were not required, but many people joined in the fun with with gowns, bonnets and accessories to evoke the period. We ogled each others ensembles, talked about the return of Sanditon and what we hoped to see in the finale. Some familiar faces from PBS SoCal also introduced themselves and mingled with the crowd on the lawn. It swept us into a perfect time away from the world’s troubles to indulge in the joy of PBS Masterpiece and Sanditon.
Later we were ushered up the stairs into a stunning banquet room complete with more of those breathtaking ocean views for a lively Sanditon themed quiz, a costume contest, prizes and a delicious dinner, served buffet style in the charming courtyard complete with an atmospheric fountain. Those who know me will be happy to hear that I exercised great decorum and refrained from jumping in to splash. The champagne flowed and there were smiles and laughter all around..
After dinner, the lights dimmed, and we were treated to a specially recorded message from star of Sanditon, Rose Williams, and then, the great awaited moment, the Sanditon season two finale rolled.
Sanditon fans know better than to expect the expected. Andrew Davies won’t be pressured to cave and write what might be the hoped for or seemingly obvious resolution. Even Jane Austen herself would be in for a jolt! I’m certainly not going to spoil it for anyone, but let it be said that all emotions held sway, and the season ends with a gasp that was elicited by the very last line. As closing credits rolled, Robert and I looked at each other at the same time and said “WHAT?!”. Don’t press me. I won’t tell. You can watch for yourself soon on your own local PBS station or stream it with PBS Passport.
The crowd seemed a little stunned yet excited after what we just saw. But the evening wasn’t over yet! We were invited to an elegant dessert buffet plus tea and coffee, all the while discussing the finale and speculating what we hope to see on the third season of Sanditon. The overall consensus seemed to be that Sanditon season three cannot come soon enough. We’re all certain that Andrew Davies has more Sanditon surprises up his sleeve.
As we made our way to the parking lot after a truly wonderful evening, our PBS friends handed out tote bags and bade us farewell. Thank you PBS SoCal! What a lovely, lovely celebration of yet another remarkable program on Masterpiece. This life-long Masterpiece PBS fan and unrepentant Anglophile is very grateful to have been included in your celebration of Sanditon.
Please allow me to give a gentle nudge to support your invaluable, local PBS stations if you are able. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without them
Elyse Ashton, the author, is an actress and Los Angeles Press Club Award winning co-host of The Anglophile Channel’s Dish shows. She gives her opinions very decidedly.