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'Reckless' Passion Returns to PBS, Sultry Cast Intact

Television: 'Masterpiece Theatre' updates its sexy, funny contemporary romance with a two-hour movie.

April 17, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WWRITER

When we last saw passionate lovers Owen and Anna at the conclusion of "Reckless," "Masterpiece Theatre's" surprisingly contemporary romance in three chapters, the couple had thrown caution to the wind and run off together, much to the chagrin of Anna's jealous, but terribly unfaithful, husband Richard.

"Reckless, the Sequel," which premieres on PBS Sunday night, picks up the thread of that passion, which fortunately burns as hot as ever. The two-hour movie--a year has passed--finds the couple blissfully together in a small but attractive flat. Owen (Robson Green) is eating breakfast as he silently and lovingly watches Anna (Francesca Annis) get ready for work. As she leaves, Anna smiles and, just before closing the door, says: "Yes."

Owen's reaction is anything but subtle, though there is much about this movie that is. Within a week, the two will be--well, leave it to Owen to explain.

The initial six-part "Reckless" certainly was a change of pace for the PBS series. For 28 years, "Masterpiece Theatre" has presented countless acclaimed, award-winning British period dramas.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 20, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Actress--Francesca Annis was the co-star of the romantic comedy "Reckless, the Sequel" on PBS Sunday night. She was misidentified in a caption in Saturday's Calendar.

In fact, "Reckless" may be the first "Masterpiece Theatre" series to feature a male lead who wears blue jeans and a leather jacket. Britches, hose and powdered wigs are more the norm.

Penned by Paul Abbott ("Cracker," "Touching Evil"), the romantic comedy has been a breath of fresh air for the series. A huge hit in England, "Reckless" also caught on with "Masterpiece" fans when it aired early last year.

Viewers and critics found much to like. "Reckless" was passionate, sexy, funny and steamy--and set in the '90s. Abbott's sophisticated characters were wonderfully rendered by Annis as the beautiful, middle-aged and very married executive Anna and hunky Green as the young, sexy doctor who worked in a hospital run by Anna's ninny of a husband, Richard (Michael Kitchen), who, it so happens, had a pregnant mistress.

The sequel finds the insanely jealous Richard employing every dirty trick in the book to come between Owen and Anna.

Abbott believes that "Reckless" appealed to audiences because viewers were ripe for something romantic and funny.

"People seemed ready for something more life-affirming," says Abbott, who was once married to a woman 11 years his senior. "Though it had obsessional qualities about it and complicated emotional material, making that complex and funny at the same time was a real joy."

Even before the last episode of "Reckless" aired in England, Abbott was being bombarded to do a six-part sequel.

"I fought the sequel off for five big meetings," Abbott says. Finally, he adds, he agreed to do a two-hour movie.

"He's telling you lies," Green says, laughing. "They came to him with wheelbarrows full of money. I agree with Paul that he couldn't have had another six hours because watching people in love would be boring anyway. You have to do something immediate; they are going to get married, and there is a consequence to that marriage."

Though "Reckless" is not typical "Masterpiece" fare, it remains among the series' most popular and fits--even if not too tidily--all the dramatic requirements, according to series executive producer Rebecca Eaton.

"I think you can make a case that 'Masterpiece Theatre' was built on a bedrock of romance and that the [series'] stock in trade has been complicated love, as well as encumbered love whether it is adulterous love, fatal love or love on two sides of the political fence," she says.

Green believes audiences embraced the comedy because it was a love story told with honesty. "The themes were very adult. Decisions were made that were adult. It was never a scenario about an older woman and a younger man. It was about two adults making grown-up decisions."

After the first episode aired on British TV, Abbott got a surprising picture of who was tuning in.

"I expected that we would latch on to that classic female audience for romantic films, but it got a substantial male audience," he says. "Robson Green is very popular with all ages. He pulled in a new kind of age group for that kind of drama."

Eaton agrees that "Reckless" is more than a "chick flick."

"It's a wonderful conceit of a woman of a certain age falling in love successfully with a man so much younger who absolutely adores her and respects her," Eaton says. "I think that really got men and women. You could say it's a middle age woman's fantasy, but you could also argue that it is a younger man's fantasy to have such a fabulous woman give him that time."

And there has been a "Reckless" ripple effect, with the first installments turning the smolderingly sexy, blue-eyed Green into a TV superstar in England and the hottest heartthrob to hit the PBS airwaves since Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons in "Brideshead Revisited" 17 years ago.

"Everyone wants him," says Eaton. "[The British networks] are fighting each other over him."

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