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The Forsyte Saga
updated 12.02.2002

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I have enjoyed many series aired by Masterpiece Theatre, and have never been dissatisfied.

I have read a few of the comments submitted by other viewers. It is a shame that many people were so busy comparing this presentation with the first one that they failed to see the new version as the true masterpiece it is. I have to admit that I have not seen the original Forsyte Saga. However, to close oneself off to the possibilities that a new series may present and to assume that it will never match up to the original just isn't right. To assume that there could never be another because the first was "so great" just doesn't make any sense to me. Why can't people open their minds and appreciate the magnificence of this story? Perhaps it is slightly changed from the first version, but why would you want the exact same story to be told? I salute Masterpiece Theatre for bringing this to television. I am anxiously awaiting the continuation of The Forsyte Saga. Until then...

Z. B.
New Orleans, LA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Perhaps because I have not seen the original, I was not biased while watching this particular version of The Forsyte Saga. I truly enjoyed all of it. From the very beginning when the main characters were introduced until the very end. This series really made me feel as if I were getting to know the characters on a personal level. I felt for each of them. The actors did a wonderful job. They are all very beautiful, which made it that much more fascinating to watch. Now, all I can do is anxiously await the next series.

Denise Burke
Metairie, LA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Please give us more episodes! I truly enjoyed learning about this family and their intricate lives.

Judy Nagy
Hobart, IN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I really enjoyed The Forsyte Saga. It is one of my favorite series of books. I've re-read all nine volumes (including the Interludes) several times since I first read The Man of Property in high school. Overall, I thought the show was very well done. The only disappointment to me was Irene. Though I have seen Gina McKee before, and liked her, I feel she was a bad choice for this role. In the books, Galsworthy spent too much time commenting on her coloring, (milky white skin, golden hair, dark eyes -- the unusual combination) for the role to be played by a dark haired, very English-looking woman. I also didn't think her character was portrayed with the depth that it could have been. I think Irene had much deeper self-possession, was more seductive looking, and basically had more life to her than was portrayed in this series. Other than that, I think the casting was marvelous. James was perfect, and the casting of Winifred and Dartie was very much as I had pictured it. There was license taken with the older Forsytes. Swithin actually died long before the divorce, etc. He was also a very large man who was full of hot air.

All that said, I can't wait to see the continuation of the series. It will be quite interesting to see the Forsytes after World War I, Fleur in the flapper era and the sets and costumes.

Claudia Egger
El Paso, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I always enjoy watching Masterpiece Theatre, so interesting and entertaining. When there is a series, I look forward each week to the next episode. Please keep them coming.

C Thomas
Salt Lake City, UT

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The new adaptation of Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga is an interesting look into the lives and deaths of seemingly very real people. The depth of character expressed by the actors allows one to ease into the storyline and feel for each and every significant event. The sets, landscapes, costumes and architecture combine delicately with the storyline and superb direction. It is a masterpiece that stays true to its time period and yet translates well for a modern audience. It allows us to look into the soul of those who might outwardly not appear to have one. The Forsyte Saga shows us that the soul does indeed exist.

Vickie Brunkalla
St. Charles, IL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
What an incredible production! The acting is superb. Every detail is wonderful. The cast and crew should be thoroughly proud to be a part of such a remarkable television event.

Jeff Beck
Boca Raton, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
As always the Masterpiece Theatre series is well crafted and entertaining. I was surprised at myself for disliking Irene so at the end. Her dishonesty in marrying Soames for the "wrong" ideals at the time caused many, many years of suffering. Soames actually married for love, albeit a possessive love, but at least he was sincere. By the end, after the scenes showing Soames at his father's deathbed and at the crib of his daughter, Galsworthy has the viewer sympathizing with Soames. His is a part well written, and well portrayed by Damian Lewis. My hope is that Masterpiece Theatre continues to create this type of series.

One small note: Casting went astray in the choice of the actors playing June and her father Jolyon. They looked more like brother and sister!

Jennifer Goez
Freeport, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I absolutely loved it. I can't wait for the next episodes.

Laura Polk
Jackson, TN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The Forsyte Saga isn't just another soap opera, despite the twists, turns and shifts in relationships. Galsworthy's portraits of "types" in British society (the members of the family) are magical. Nothing would please me more than to see the original saga as a revival. Perhaps it could be aired over a full week. After reading the consensus on the actress cast in the role of Irene, I must agree with those who are puzzled by the selection. Some viewers may actually remember the film, with Greer Garson in the role. A lovely, gracious, delicate and yet reticent woman -- she was magnificent. Your choice of actress lacks the depth and magnificence that Irene should possess. While watching the current television drama, I tried hard to find something attractive and lovable about your Irene. It was difficult, as she didn't have the magic. That being said, I look forward to your upcoming series continuing the saga. Thanks for allowing me to share these thoughts.

Susan Lavenson
Scottsdale, AZ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
My mom introduced my husband and me to the so-called "Brit coms." We loved Upstairs Downstairs, and are avid viewers of Keeping Up Appearances and As Time Goes By. Unfortunately, I missed the first night of The Forsyte Saga, but was glued to the television on the following six Sunday evenings. I did not want it to end and cannot wait for the new ones to begin. Thank you very much.

Linda Crelin
Hamilton, NJ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Excellent programming! Keep up the good work.

Geoffrey Humphreys
Huron, OH

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Very disappointing: Soames was too evil by far; Irene's vapid face was very annoying. And when Winifred cried out "Oh Monty, you are the limit," I burst out laughing. The characters were cardboard. June's father looked more like her husband. Oh, for the days of Upstairs Downstairs, The Jewel in the Crown and other well acted dramas!

Patricia Negin
Montreal, QC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed The Forsyte Saga. Bravo to those involved on both sides of the Atlantic! English literature, forever!

Sean Powers
Wichita, KS

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was enthralled with the final episode of The Forsyte Saga. At last, we glimpsed the divine in the soul of Soames. His agony and passion over Irene's red velvet gown struck a perfect balance with his later actions, for example, when he caressed his dying father's feet, and when he showed such surprising joy at his daughter's presence. I gasped, and my eyes burned with tears when I first saw Fleur. How could her father resist her?

Barbara Teague
Lakeside, AZ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Amazing! Watching the "new" Forsyte Saga I remember so clearly the first one -- and astoundingly it was so much more wonderful. I remember the death of Queen Victoria and Old Forsyte rising with difficulty because he wouldn't sit as the Queen passed by. This version seems a pale comparison. Irene and Soames particularly do not measure up. Nor does young Jolyon measure up to the great Kenneth More.

Caroline Urbas
New York, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed The Forsyte Saga. I was incredibly moved by the fourth episode, especially the relationship between Old Jolyon and Irene, which was beautifully translated to the screen. Gina McKee was just right in the role of Irene. Although I haven't seen the original from the 1960's, I've been enjoying the book. The series shows such high caliber talent in both cast and production. The set design and costuming is especially notable. The look of everything is so luxurious and is a real plot point in a piece like this (about a family like that!). I'm very pleased to hear that this won't be the end, and that a second and third series are in the works. That mollifies me, as my one complaint is that the first series ends with Fleur's birth. It seems like such a sour note to end on. I'm anxiously awaiting the next series!

San Diego, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
All I can say is that I was terribly sad when the last episode aired last night. I have not been glued to the television in this way since I, Claudius and The Jewel in the Crown. High praise goes to the production team, and specifically to the great, great, great Damian Lewis. Those of us who watched him throughout the series (and there are lots here at our office) just think he's incredible and awesome. Thank you for making this show such a pleasure to watch.

Ana Maria Geraldino
Sherman Oaks, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I've read The Forsyte Saga three times, and Soames remains the most sympathetic character to me. I know he's a bully, he's vindictive and he causes quite a lot of misery, but there are several passages about him that always make me cry. I guess it's primarily his future relationship with Fleur that helps a little.

Evelyn Bramhall
Wilmington, DE

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
When I learned that a new version of The Forsyte Saga would be airing, I immediately recalled the early 1970's. As a sophomore in high school, I managed to catch the series the third and last time it was aired. I wrote a paper about it, called Memorable Tuesdays, simply because I lived for Tuesday nights twenty-six weeks in a row. I got an "A" on the report with a short comment: "surprising choice". I couldn't tell if Sister Andre was impressed or scandalized. Even though the series was shown in black and white, it was enthralling. I became hooked on period dramas, and with the start of Masterpiece Theatre that same year, I quickly became an Anglophile. I loved the 1967 version, and I certainly looked forward to this new broadcast, hoping it would be just as good or possibly better. Now that the first installment has aired, I can honestly say that it didn't measure up.

Gina McKee was a disappointment. I expected someone who was sensual and curvy. When she first appeared on the screen I thought she was too pale to have that Elvis-black hair and besides, Irene is supposed to have golden blonde locks. Gina is so gaunt in this series, and very lackluster. Why cast her as Irene who is "born to love and be loved"? I can't picture her inspiring the love of Soames, Young Jolyon, Old Jolyon and Bosinney, while looking anorexic and hardly speaking. I tried to reason that she looks and acts that way outwardly, because inside she is emotionally dead. Even after years away from Soames and being financially independent, she still looked as though she were at Death's door, and had little to say.

The other characters were excellently portrayed! I just wish the story followed the book. For example, when Uncle Swithin takes Irene to Robin Hill to see how the house is progressing, why is there no scene showing Swithin's carriage racing back to town, and Irene telling Swithin that she doesn't care if she ever gets home? Also, when James is dying, Soames doesn't go by car to be by his side, and Irene doesn't slap June when they meet at Bosinney's rooms!

Speaking of June, why is her character so downplayed? She's the one whose father ran off with her nanny. Her fiancé ditches her for her second cousin's wife, and she winds up living with her father and nanny/stepmother with their children in the house that Phil Bosinney built. Then, when she's at about old-maid status, (thirty-something), her father marries the woman that Phil threw her over for. I really admire June for managing to put up with all of that, without the benefit of Prozac.

Michaelene K. Koncz
Bethel Park, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
My English Literature college professor once said that Soames Forsyte is one of the few four-dimensional fictional characters ever created. However, this production is one of the worst I have ever seen in thirty plus years of watching Masterpiece, etc. on PBS. The lousy script, lousy casting, lousy acting and lousy direction produced total boredom and disappointment. How could it be so bad? James Forsyte's death scene in the final episode was simply ludicrous! I yearned for John Welsh and Eric Porter.

Jean Pappas
Placentia, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Last night (Sunday) was the final episode of The Forsyte Saga, which I have been enjoying immensely. I was fortunate not to have missed a single episode. I did not know there was another (earlier) production of The Forsyte Saga out there. I have no interest in seeing it as it would spoil the exquisite rapture I find myself in watching the current version and its cast of characters. Well done! I am dying with anticipation for the next round of episodes to be aired.

Roxie Gamble
New Orleans, LA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I did not have the privilege of viewing the original series, but I must say that I was thoroughly engrossed with this current offering. I will definitely read Galsworthy's books for additional insight on the Forsyte clan.

I see that I am not alone in my bewilderment of how Irene's supposed beauty fueled this drama. Gina McKee is not unattractive but she's certainly not a ravishing, throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of beauty. But I digress. Perhaps it's her charms that lure men. I truly enjoyed Damian Lewis's portrayal of Soames. In the beginning, I loathed him. But as the story continued, I began to see that perhaps Soames wasn't so much mean as he was socially inept. Irene knew she couldn't love him from square one. So, she should have turned down his proposal and taken a job, or sucked it up and made it work. I think if she had put forth some effort instead of sulking about her choice, she might have loosened him up. He adored her. She knew this and trampled his heart. She trampled June's heart. As a matter of fact, I can see why she and young Jolyon ended up together: they were two very selfish, smug people. It was absolutely cruel for Jolyon and Irene to show up at the French restaurant to flaunt her pregnancy. I'm sure they were aware of Soames's purchase. Dare I say, without having read the books, that Irene would kick Jolyon to the wayside if she saw fit. Still, I can't wait for the future installments on the Forsyte clan. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Bravo!

Loretta Hunt
Upper Marlboro, MD

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I hated the heroine. She was not a pretty enough, or appealing enough as an actress to warrant all the attention from every man who met her. I think she looked more like an old maid spinster. Otherwise, I enjoyed the series and only missed one. Thanks.

Virginia Hamlin
Casselberry, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I watched all seven episodes of The Forsyte Saga. I was in love with the original. I thought Gina McKee, however, was totally miscast. She did not have the physical attributes of Irene, which were a major factor in the three novels. I thought she was too plain to be Irene, and I could not understand Soames's fixation. In fact, I saw her as an ingrate, lucky to get a man who wanted to give her so much. This version was lush in its graphic detail. I wonder why the producers could not find a beautiful actress to play Irene.

Linda Dunphy
Jupiter, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Well, I enjoyed every minute of The Forsyte Saga, even the puzzling times when no one seemed to age. Gina McKee, Damian Lewis, Corin Redgrave and the ever-wonderful Rupert Graves added so much to the series. In fact, all the actors were superb. Thank you! I even missed The Sopranos on Sunday night to keep up with the Forsytes and I look forward to the continued stories.

Anne Howard
Richmond, VA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was drawn into the characters from the very first episode. Sunday evening was much anticipated. I cannot wait for the continuing story of the Forsytes, and would like to settle down on a wintry evening with the written work as well.

Janie Lang
Campbellsport, WI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The Forsyte Saga is a true masterpiece! After viewing the first hour, I knew I was going to have to plan my Sunday evenings around this show. I found it a true delight and was sad to see it end. The characters had all become so real to me. Thank you Masterpiece Theatre and PBS for allowing me the great opportunity to view the brilliance of John Galsworthy.

Joy Coffey
Knoxville, TN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I absolutely love Masterpiece Theatre, and I have for several years. The Forsyte Saga was excellent and I'm sad to see it come to an end!

Heather Shockney
Washington, DC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Though I had never watched Masterpiece Theatre before, I accidentally left the first episode of The Forsyte Saga on as background noise for a night of laundry. Two months later, I am deeply depressed that the series has come to an end. It was positively the best television I've ever experienced. The saga has been riveting, and more than one of my friends has made it a habit on Sunday nights. The crafted dialogue, splendid camerawork and masterful acting are simply entrancing. The gentle mystery in Gina Mckee's appearance and acting is perfect, and it is pure beauty when Irene finally allows herself to smile. Likewise, Damian Lewis's presence and painful transition is outstanding. The tension is almost unbearable each time both actors share the screen.

Shawn Rairigh
Philadelphia, PA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I have The Forsyte Saga on the bookshelf in my library and was delighted to see that Masterpiece Theatre was televising the series. I have enjoyed the telecast very much but am very disappointed with the choice of the actress playing Irene. Even Jolyon doesn't seem quite right, but I am accepting of his character more so than hers. She is a lovely actress but does not fit the part. Most of my friends watching the series feel the same way. It's just not quite right. Something is lacking. Soames, however, is perfect, inspiring both dislike and pity.

Sandra Mathews
St. George, KS

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I really enjoyed The Forsyte Saga. Damian Lewis is an excellent choice for Soames. He is able to convey such a sense of vulnerability through his character. The audience is able to see through his facade and understand who his character really is.

Rayla Williams
Seminole, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The Forsyte Saga was excellent! I found myself eagerly awaiting each episode. I'm looking forward to future episodes. Please continue to present such excellent work and performances on Masterpiece Theatre.

Carol McLaurin
Austin, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I can only dimly remember the original actors who played Soames and Irene, which may make it easier to accept the new ones. I think Gina McKee is well chosen for her period looks and for her sense of passive but not passionless beauty. Galsworthy says something to the effect that she is the catalyst, seen through others, and she is something of an enigma. McKee shows us that she is not unfeeling, but that she has almost always had to contain her feelings, especially as Soames' wife. She's not supposed to be bubbly. This is the Victorian period we're talking about. And so she's not blond: it's not critical!

Soames, meanwhile, balances the despicable and the pitiable. You see how deeply he cares, but he's still a patriarchal, bourgeois Victorian who truly considers his wife his property to do with as he likes. Though so affected by his emotions himself, he lacks the insight to understand how Irene's emotions make his demands unpalatable. Lewis beautifully portrays this combination of emotional obsession and Victorian insensitivity.

Alden O'Brien
Washington, DC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was totally mesmerized by The Forsyte Saga. I loved very minute and did not want it to end. I would not make one change to the casting. I loved Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers, and totally loathed him in this series. In playing a man so full of hate and obsession, his acting was excellent. Ms. McKee was every bit a lady of that era. I just can't get enough of these types of stories and usually have to look to Canadian channels to get my fill. I am still entranced by the whole saga. Thank you!

Karen Miller
Rochester, MI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Gina McKee was magnificent as Irene. Her sultry looks, especially her luscious mouth, kept me entranced. I think Gina is positively beautiful and a breath of fresh air from the typical blond beauties of yesteryears and today. That's what creative license is for. Thank you Masterpiece Theatre. I look forward to the second and third series. Please, don't make us wait too long.

Doreen Cobbs-Anum
Wake Forest, NC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I had not viewed the 1969 version in many years, but I recently reviewed the first eight episodes. It holds up very well today. Yes, it is slower and in black and white, but the interpretation is slightly different than the modern one. I think that Nyree Porter was a better Irene, but Gina does grow into the role. Eric Porter and Damian Lewis, I would say, are equal. I was enchanted with this modern update of The Forsyte Saga and really can't wait to see the next installment featuring Fleur. How about a hint as to who will play Fleur in the next installment?

Elaine Harrison
Dearborn Heights, MI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
As a watcher and lover of the original series over thirty years ago, I never thought you could do justice with a new version. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is it wonderful, with superb actors, but also it has prompted me to go back and re-read the books! Kudos to all!

Sue Levine
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I have never seen the original Forsyte Saga, nor have I read the book. I have, however, read other thoughts and opinions on this new version of the saga, and now I know why I don't like Irene. She is one of the main characters in the show and she is so boring, unattractive and lifeless. When she did smile, it was barely visible!

Bosinney was the only really colorful person on the set! After he died, it was rather boring -- almost predictable. Please change the actress playing Irene to the original blond, blue-eyed and full of life character. I could not believe that Bosinney fell for her. June was also full of life and interesting. Both June and Bosinney have the good looks to portray their characters. I would give this saga a "C."

Mary Miller
Pueblo, Colorado

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I enjoyed this series very much. I'm hoping that the next one is on it's way soon! Masterpiece Theatre is such a nice change from all the junk on prime-time television.

Allison Rittenhouse
Aroda, VA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
A splendid production! Riveting and glorious! I do, however, find issue with the assertion that the actress who portrayed Irene was selected for her beauty, among other things. It was very distracting to know that the author describes her great beauty as a force in the events as they unfolded. Distracting, because the lady in question is not beautiful. If anything she is rather ugly. It was so hard to view her as a great thing of beauty when she clearly is not. She is a fine actress, but hardly a woman of great beauty. In discussions with friends, the one overriding observation is that this is the only major flaw in the production.

Terry Christiano
Oldsmar, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I enjoyed watching The Forsyte Saga. Every Sunday at nine I was glued to the television. All of my emotions went into the story. I have been a PBS viewer for many years and will continue for many more.

Tammy Nichols
Trenton, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Perhaps I am prejudiced having seen the first version. However, I have read the books several times and have always had an interest in the characters. Young Jolyon was never portrayed as effete, although that is the impression given in the current program. Soames was not written as a monster, but as a complex human being. In your presentation, he has no depth and no redeeming qualities.

When the first series was on, I brought my television set on vacation so that I wouldn't miss anything. This time, I watched the first four or five programs and gave up. I might have been watching Days of Our Lives. I realized that I didn't care about a single character. Irene simpers, as does Young Jolyon. I suppose, to respond to younger viewers, there is a suggestion of impropriety between Irene and Old Jolyon, something not found in the books. A terrible disappointment.

Judith Bourgeois
Wilbraham, MA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I want more! I can't believe it's over. It seems like it just started!

Denise Michel Jaramillo
Chino Hills, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I loved every minute of it, and am quite depressed that I have nothing to look forward to all this week. I was enjoying not liking Soames, and it bothered me that I was happy for him at the end when he fell in love with his baby.

Lorie Northcutt
Turkey, NC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
It was absolutely enthralling. I felt as if a member of the family was leaving last night when the last episode finished. Masterpiece Theatre is never disappointing, but this was above and beyond. Thank you so much.

B. J. Wright
Nashville, TN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I can't think of a Masterpiece Theatre presentation that I enjoyed more. I was pulling for Soames all along. What a jerk, always getting in his own way! Everything in the presentation was beautifully done -- not really a surprise but just so very lovely to see. The Forsyte Saga joins, I, Claudius and Elizabeth R on my "all time favorites" list. Tough act to follow!

Carol DeAngelis
Tampa, FL

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