63 thoughts on “SNARK WEEK RECAP: North & South (1985), Episode 1

  1. I loath Civil War shows, except for Mercy Street & Gone With the Wind.
    The costumes here are soo awful that Jon Rhys Meyers would feel at home. My advice is to avoid this at all costs. Watch Jane Austen series/movies instead. Or Wives and Daughters, Barchester, Pallisers.

  2. Oh man, the clothing. The make up. The HAIR. It’s like Greace mixed with Amadeus attempt to rip off Gone with the Wind.

  3. I got a crush on Patrick from this show back in the day. the ONLY things worse than the costuming are the accents, and the wigs. young Ashtons wigs are horrific aliens attempting to eat her brain. Genie Francis’ accent set back North and South relations for DECADES. it’s worse than Sandy Dennis’s. oh the horror! I think this show used up Hollywoods supply of poly satin for a few months.

  4. I actually watched this as a tween; it was aired on TV mid/late 90s during my Civil War history obsession phase. Thankfully I don’t remember most of it. The costumes were never good, but this review also lays bare some serious issues (not beating people ≠ good person, esp. when you still own the people you’re not beating).

    1. Gawd, the ‘feel good’ Southerner thing, just bec. you’re not actually whipping slaves, even tho’ you still own them. Fuuuuuck. It’s as fakey as the poly baroque satin!

      1. So many thoughts on this topic that I could write way too much but basically it just shows how societies corrupted by evil systems end up placing a finger on the scale of all sorts of evils. Sure, it’s better for owners not to beat their slaves, but once you compare to “bad” owners it’s so easy to view one as abusive and the other not, but the whole system is abusive. It’s really insidious. I felt like 12 Years a Slave was a powerful antidote to this in a lot of ways. Even the “nice” owner let Solomon be tortured by his overseer, and sold a woman off rather than face her grief over the children he separated her from.

        1. Agreed. It’s important to show the range of experiences, but it’s a sliding scale of morality and nobody comes out looking good. Honestly I’d be more okay with them trying to show “not every slave owner was an abusive asshole” if they gave any African Americans more of a role in this production (and yes, I am mid-way through the series so I have seen their lame attempt at doing so).

  5. I LOVE to read this review, even though I am not at all into the time period. The bosoms are lovely, as is everyone being decades and decades younger than I remember them ever being, even when this first came out. Guess it’s because looking back, I am decades older.

    This review cracks me up bigtime. Thanks!

  6. I straight up laughed at some of that make-up. That and the hair really date this, which you’ve noted in the past. I’m a child of the 90s, so 80s hair and make-up are the worst for me.

  7. I’m a huge Kirstie Alley fan, and always felt that she was one of those women that looked perpetually 34. Like, she could have been 16 and looked 34. Gorgeous, to be sure, but never looked anything younger than 34.

    Of course, I feel that way about a lot of women who were famous actresses in the 80s. Why do they all look 34???

  8. Of course, we all have our cheesy faves! In fact I recently did a post about “top 5 cheesy frock flicks I have secretly loved”! :)

    1. Hell, some of the stuff we snark brutally are the very same shows we love the most. Doesn’t mean you can’t still call a spade a spade while still enjoying something. Wait until you read my Juana Ines post tomorrow… It’s all about enjoying a show while at the same time acknowledging that the costumes were spectacularly bad.

  9. I will never be able to think of or see Lesley Anne Downe again without thinking “tits” you have made my evening x

  10. I lived through half of the first night of it when it played on ABC in college. While I honestly don’t think I had much clue at the time about the costumes, the apologetics for the Confederate cause was more than I could take. I told my roommate she’d be on her own if she insisted on watching it any further. She did, I spent a couple of good nights in the library and ditched her for a happy second semester in Italy, far from the polyester (and I never spoke with that roommate again). Sadly, the racist sentiment has spread since this awful miniseries (or its sequels)–as seen in Charlottesville, this summer. God help you, Kendra and all the actors trapped in this horror. I would not will that shit on any friend.

    1. It’s really going after everything with the broadest of strokes, which just ends up obscuring the real pain of the true history. Painting abolitionists as 100% embracing African Americans is just as untrue as the idea that if you were nice to your slave, it really wasn’t that bad of a system.

  11. I have all the feels for Lesley Ann Downs. She is a decent English actress with “page 3 assets” and the common sense to put her scruples about poly satin aside in favour of a comfortable retirement.

  12. So, you’re snarking on “North and South” huh? Pity. It’s actually a lot better than people are willing to admit. I like how the production is willing to be so openly critical of slavery and racism, despite the fact that a good number of its main characters are Southern slave owners. I also like how it portrays the antebellum period of the 1840s and 1850s with a depth that is rare in many movie and television productions.

    It’s funny. The production been bashed by many for its melodrama, yet stories by many other authors – including Charles Dickens and Margaret Mitchell – are brimming with over-the-top melodrama. Yet, their stories are rarely criticized for this. As for the costumes . . . well, I’ve already pointed this out in another post that some of the costumes are questionable and some of them are quite good.

    1. I’m recapping, which means you get to read my personal thoughts on the production. You get to have your own thoughts on it, too! That’s the joy of being individuals. And if you decide to read each recap, you’ll see that I will certainly point out when they do things right, costume-wise.

    2. How is it special to be “openly critical of slavery” in 1985. Was the mainstream in 1985 pro slavery? On the contrary, by portraying some Southern slave owners as “nice” because they are critical of slavery, while neglecting to give actual black people significant screen time, the show is being remarkably dense and disrespectful. As if the Civil War was this tragic misunderstanding between two groups of mostly-nice white Americans — a war in which black people had no role except as an issue.

      Also, if anything, I think Kendra was too easy on some of the costumes.

      1. Thanks, you said this perfectly: “As if the Civil War was this tragic misunderstanding between two groups of mostly-nice white Americans — a war in which black people had no role except as an issue.”

        1. Accurate and balanced portrayal of southern slave owner’s mentality is difficult to pull off when your “heroes” are from families of southern plantationers which were, indeed, the biggest slave owners. And the show seems way too dumb for that. I guess we should leave it on that and apply MST3K mantra?

          1. I see that none of you really understood Jakes’ trilogy at all. You seemed to be accusing it of being pro-slavery without actually saying it. WHY?

            The black characters in the “NORTH AND SOUTH” had no real issue in the narrative? Are you KIDDING ME? That’s your main complaint??? Did you even watch the trilogy, let alone read the novels?

  13. Wow- they take a pretty craptastic period clothes-wise and make it even more craptastic…except for the cleavage thing…oh wait, I’m not the right demographic for that anymore.

  14. Not all of the costumes are terrible. I really don’t understand this excessive criticism of it. It’s almost over-the-top to me.

    1. If by “Not all” you mean “the bodice neckline that MIGHT be actually kind of sort of correct” than I would agree with you. I actually saw ONE dress that was not half-bad but it was still really really REALLY off.

      Everyone has their own take. My take was just to be asking “WTH IS SHE WEARING?” With every screen cap that came up. I like accuracy. And the 1840s is the beginning of the period I particularly specialize my research in (1840-1875) so it bothers me immensely when I see it done wrong, because it’s a period I particularly like.

      Do I think the criticism can be unfair sometimes? Maybe. I don’t agree with Kendra’s (or was it Trystan’s? Sorry ladies!) critique of bonnets always looking derpy. I think a well-executed bonnet, with the correct shape, right weight of materials, and trimmings that’s correct can look AMAZING. But hey – I still love Frock Flicks. I don’t agree with them all the time either, but it’s OK.

  15. Between the miles of polyester, mountains of plastic jewels, and metric shit-tonne of empty hairspray cans that inevitably produced these hairstyles, this production may single-highhandedly be responsible for the climate crisis.

  16. It’s a small thing, but the dreadful plastic bead edging on that monstrosity of a wedding veil cap (????) just hollers CHEAP to me. And I thought this was supposed to be a lavish production. Does anyone remember if this is the miniseries featured in an article in People back in the day in which the actress playing a brunette vixen (second generation maybe, since I don’t think it was TO) talked about how much bust padding was inflicted upon the actresses, so they would clown around on set and have pretend cat fights where they’d bounce off each other’s foam breasts? Can’t remember the actress’s name, but the image of that fake-bosom sumo has stuck with me over the years. :)

    1. Not entirely. The BBC were making historically accurate series in those years though I feel that the heyday of the British costume drama was the 70s. I am currently watching a relatively low budget series from the late 70s which looks accurate to my eye, clearly using actual period lace, hair up and or covered, correct necklines, suitable fabrics..

  17. Nobody looked like a teen in the 80s–we all looked 30 with the caked on makeup and frizztastic hair.

  18. Never seen this series but enjoying this immensely. Those costumes/hair/makeup are so so so terribly bad reflecting the respect, or lack of, Hollywood has for history. Sadly it is a lack of care that seems to be infectious..(thinking of last year’s War and Peace travesty)

  19. Oh and when it comes to snarking bad costumes in favourite series I would welcome a snark week item on the costumes in the other, North and South, (BBC) one of my favourite TV series which is marred for me by some of the costumes and historically jarring aspects of the script. Though those criticisms are indeed subtle in comparison.

  20. Great recap.

    I like how you mentioned Maum Sally and her style. I’ve seen many North and South discussions completely ignore Maum Sally and the other enslaved characters. Interestingly, I feel as if Maum Sally got some very accurate tignons. In that they were not always wrapped the same way and because of her privileged position as a favored FPOC she had fabric enough for tignons of multiple different colors.

  21. So enjoying these posts! I wasted my early teens on being a Civil War-nerd thanks to this fab show. I even read the books and invested my birthday money in the video tapes. The story is of course cringeworthy and them gentlemen are wearing costumes that look nothing like the 1840s. But still… Whenever I hear the score it’s the 1980s again and I’m eleven…

  22. I know that in late-Victorian era riding habits were supposed to be black, with other dark colours (green, navy, brown, lighter grey for summer) as an option. Maybe in the 1840s they allowed more variety, but bright purple doesn’t seem right. It goes without saying that riding habits came up to the neck, but so did other daytime dresses, so whatever.

    The hair is awesome. No woman in the 1840s would be caught dead in it.

    I kind of like the blue-striped skirt of Madeline’s first dress, though. Not on her and not in this costume (which is all-round awful), but I like the fabric. I wouldn’t mind wearing it, in the shape of some other, non-historic dress. Assuming it’s not the terriblt 1980s polyester, that is.

  23. Hot damn, I love y’all SO MUCH. ::pauses to wipe streaming eyes, honk nose, measure the fluffiness of the Swayze mullet::

  24. I remember watching this once, several years ago – I think I was in middle school? I was extremely feverish and drifted in and out of being asleep vs being awake. I wasn’t sure how much of what I remembered was real. Turns out it was an unfortunately large amount. I definitely thought it was set in the 1850s though, and had no idea it wasn’t until this post….

  25. Too much mascara and acetate dresses
    Mullets to fit with your long auburn tresses,
    Tan lines and hair frizz and hoors wearing fringe-
    These are the things that make costumers cringe!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: