As I was updating our list of upcoming historical costume movies and TV series for the new year, I noticed a show called Harlots, described as “Brothel owner, Margaret Wells, struggles to raise her daughters in London during the 18th century.” Now doesn’t that sound fun? But looking on IMDB, the source of all truth, I couldn’t find any photos and very little news aside from the premiere date — March 29, 2017, on Hulu (note to self: get Hulu). Also, I saw that the costume designer was Edward K. Gibbon, and his resume includes the awful, prom-dress-infested 2016 War & Peace. Dammit, I needed pictures, I needed to see if this “Harlots” show was going to suck.
TO THE INTERWEBS!
One of the great things about the 21st century is that everyone has a cameraphone in their pocket. That includes 20-something actors, makeup artists, set designers, and people-on-the-street who happen to be near historical costume series filming in the neighborhood. So they all snap pix and post them on Twitter and Instagram. This probably drives directors nuts because it’s spoiler-riffic and great for the paparazzi. It’s also great for Frock Flicks.
After a couple hours of Internet
stalking sleuthing, I was relieved to see that Harlots, produced by Hulu and British channel ITV, looks to be using pretty decent 18th-century costumes, wigs, and makeup, plus period settings and accoutrements. Sure, it could still suck in a million ways, and they could screw up how the costumes are worn, but these behind-the-scenes images seem to indicate that the production team is giving it a better try than War & Peace, at least.
The series’ executive producer Alison Owen describes the story:
“In 1760s London, there were brothels on every corner run by women who were both enterprising and tenacious. History has largely ignored them, but their stories are in turn outrageous, brutal, humorous and real.”
I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration as to the number of brothels, but Georgian London did have a seedy underside that’s well documented (check out Hogarth’s prints, for starters). Looking at it from the women’s point of view would be refreshing, and the series has a lot of women behind the scenes too, including an all-female writing team, female directors for each episode, and female producers. The series promises to have equal time for male nudity as female, and producer Owen told the Television Critics Association:
“It was very important to us from the beginning to make it about the female gaze. Our hope from the beginning was, ‘Everything from the whore’s eye view.'”
I scrounged for these photos last week, and then bam Hulu drops a teaser trailer on January 7, plus I found a few official photos.
Do you have access to ITV or Hulu — will you be watching Harlots?