Set mostly in World War I-era England, "Parade's End" (8 p.m. Tuesday, HBO; 2 stars out of 4) shares certain DNA with "Downton Abbey." But don't be fooled, the five-part miniseries moves as slowly as the Dowager Countess walking to a country picnic.
"Sherlock" star Benedict Cumberbatch plays Christopher Tietjens, a wet blanket of government statistician committed to upholding fading Edwardian ideals of honor, duty, God and country.
Mired in a sham of a marriage to perpetually bored, cruel Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), he pines for the young suffragette and schoolteacher Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), whom he almost kissed once. His upper-crust code, however, brought him back from the edge.
"I stand for monogamy," he proclaims. "Monogamy and chastity."
His wife doesn't. She runs off with one of many suitors, but then tires of him as well and decides to return home, breaking the news to her lover rather coldly.
"Oh Potty, I do hope you're not going to behave badly," she sighs. "I miss my husband. He's a block of wood, but it's like being with a grown-up man rather than trying to entertain a schoolboy.
"I say, you're not going to kill yourself, are you, Potty?"
She's right, of course--Christopher is a stone. His inability to express real feelings, and his fear of doing anything to rock the boat of society, is maddeningly frustrating. And I'm not even married to the guy.
The series picks up when Christopher, sick of Sylvia, finally goes off to war and witnesses even more horrible acts. But it's a slow march to get to the battle, and by then I was bored out of my mind.
Despite fine acting from Cumberbatch and especially Hall and rare moments of comic relief, this adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's novels feels heavy and suffocating.
If you're expecting something to keep you in the mood for the next season of "Downton Abbey," "Parade's End" will be a dour disappointment for you.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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