Picks and Pans Review: The Forsyte Saga, Series II

updated 02/16/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/16/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Sun., Feb. 8, 15 and 22, 9 p.m. ET)
DRAMA

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This Masterpiece Theatre miniseries is classy. But, oh, is it soapy.

A sequel to PBS's Forsyte Saga of fall 2002, the three-part, five-hour film is based on To Let, the third volume in John Galsworthy's magnum opus about a moneyed but troubled English family. The story takes place mostly in the 1920s, as 19-year-old Jon Forsyte (Lee Williams) pursues a romance with his fetching, manipulative cousin Fleur (Emma Griffiths Malin) despite the furious opposition of their parents. What the latter-day Romeo and Juliet don't know is that Jon's mother, Irene (Gina McKee), and Fleur's father, Soames (Damian Lewis), had a stormy marriage and a scandalous divorce before Irene went on to become the third wife of Soames's cousin Jolyon (Rupert Graves). Likewise, Irene and Jon aren't aware that Jolyon is gravely ill, though he can scarcely stagger from scene to scene. The Forsytes, you see, are not big on communication.

What makes Series II eminently worth watching is the first-rate cast, led by Lewis as a stiff-necked man whose desperate desire for love finds twisted expression in his outbursts of anger.

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