Here are the ingredients: It's the early Thirties in the small English seaside town of Tilling. The doyen of Tilling society is Miss Elizabeth Mapp (Prunella Scales). Miss Mapp is a gallumphing social climber of a certain age, unhesitatingly two-faced and who smiles broadly at you while she thinks suspicious thoughts. Into Tilling one summer comes the wealthy Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas (Geraldine McEwan), a purring social strategist. With her is Georgie Pillson (Nigel Hawthorne), her long-standing pal, who does embroidery, plays duets with Lucia on the piano and loves to chat with the upper set. His greatest concerns seem to be Lucia's happiness, his own comforts and his toupee. When Lucia decides to stay in Tilling, war is soon declared with Mapp to determine who will be the town's social queen.
Mapp & Lucia, a British television series, is an acquired taste. The only sensible people seem to be the servants. The social set which revolves around Lucia and Mapp are all largely unlikable, yet they gradually become endearing and amusing. There's Major Flint, ramrod straight even when he's downed too much liquid, which is often. Quaint Irene Coles is a free spirit who does what she likes, smokes a pipe and paints unconventional pictures, usually of female nudes. Mrs. Susan Wylie is a formidable and condescendingly gracious lady who, her bowing husband often points out, received an MBE from the King himself. Lucia, played by McEwan, is like a sly cat, very satisfied with herself and plotting not-so-subtle social victories over Mapp. And if Lucia is a cat, Mapp is more like a flummoxed but stubborn pug.
This is a program of high manners, of exaggerated and merciless social pretensions. If you stay with it, it's also very funny. The leads, Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne, do marvelous jobs of creating characters so odd and self-involved that you can't help starting to like them.
Mapp is so clueless you at times root for her. Lucia is so sly it's rather nice to realize she would never slide the social knife in too far...well, not unless she had to. And Georgie, so ineffectual without his servants, so fey, so devoted to Lucia and so utterly lightweight. He's actually a nice fellow if you can manage to make enough inconsequential small talk to get to know him.