For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?
-- Jane Austen
Stuck at my Grandma's house one summer, I pawed through her piles of Ladies Home Journal and "Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii" novels for something to read and happened on a cover featuring a shirtless cowboy. To a nine year old smitten with Westerns, this at least had potential.
An hour later I'd come to the conclusion that proper ladies like my granny liked the same sort of stuff the older boys snuck into the hot-stove hut by the outdoor rink on slow nights and read aloud to each other while us littler kids laced up our skates and pretended we weren't listening.
The language of my Granny's book was a little prettier and less to the point. But the basic idea was the same.
By the time I was introduced to Jane Austen in University, I'd been in a rock and roll band long enough to know women liked to get it on just as much as guys did. I sort of got that women liked being more discreet about it all. And I sort of didn't.
Years later, when I was writing and producing Harlequin Romance novels for television, I wrestled with how you made the conceits of those books play within the logic of contemporary drama.
I remember sitting in a boardroom with a couple of female development execs, trying to get my head around one particular moment.
Me: "Okay, she's attracted to this guy but she's also convinced he murdered her brother so she hates him."
Exec #1: "Right."
Me: "She's following him and falls into a mountain stream and he has to rescue her."
Exec #2: "That's going to be so symbolic when she clings to him as they swirl through the rapids."
Me: "Uh, yeah. But here's the part that doesn't track. He pulls her out of the river and carries her back to his cabin."
Exec #1: "Can that look like one of those Fabio covers?"
Me: "Okay, but she still thinks he's a killer. Yet the first thing that happens when they get to the cabin is he takes all her clothes off and makes her take a hot bath."
Exec #2: "Mmmmmm."
Me: "And then he makes a pass at her and she's totally into it."
Exec #1: "So?"
Me: "It doesn't make any sense."
Exec #2: "Which part?"
Somewhere in the process of trying to figure out what women want, I came to the conclusion that most romance novels are just "Beauty and the Beast" with slightly less hairy guys and that kinda got me through.
And if you think about hit "reality" series like "The Bachelorette", "The Hills" or "Jersey Shore" as a Jane Austen novel for people who don't or maybe can't read, it helps explain a lot about why they've been so successful.
We all want a little romance in our lives, even when the best we can hope for is "Snookie" or "The Situation".
Enter -- Canadian actress Ceciley Jenkins with the brilliant idea of taking Jersey Shore back to its Regency Romance roots.
Ceciley and her equally inspired cohort of actors and director/editor Michael Livingstone simply lift some of the more quotable or outrageous moments from "Jersey Shore" and transpose it to a period and presentation style that would probably make it almost palatable for my dear departed Granny while sending the rest of us into fits of laughter.
As one of her fans succinctly puts it: "If Jersey Shore was this funny, I'd watch it!"
There are five episodes of "Mashterpiece Theatre presents Jersey Shore" so far with more to come. A remarkably entertaining web series that features exemplary Canadian content and likely didn't ask for or receive a dime in CMF funding.
Prepare to have your bodice wonderfully ripped. And Enjoy Your Sunday.