PBS debuts WWII drama 'World on Fire' while world is on fire

Saturday, 04 April 2020 12:00 AM Written by 


WOF Helen Hunt

The timing for original PBS "Masterpiece" World War II drama "World on Fire" (9 p.m. Sunday, WQED-TV) may help it (world in chaos is familiar at the moment as is the notion of people banding together to help one another) or hurt it (stop the world, I want to get off!). Either way, “World on Fire” plays like a mainstream broadcast network miniseries circa 1988.

That’s not a knock. It’s kind of cool to have this sort of story back on TV, an old-school format that follows disparate characters in desperate times. If you liked “The Winds of War,” this should be a nice reminder of that ABC classic.

Read more after the jump. ...

A true ensemble affair, the cast of “World on Fire” includes Helen Hunt (“Mad About You”) as an American broadcaster reporting from Warsaw and Berlin; Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”) as a World War I vet with PTSD; Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) as a British fascist sympathizer; Jonah Hauer-King (“Little Women”) as a British translator and Brian J. Smith (“Sense8”) as a closeted gay American doctor in Paris, among many others.

Already renewed for a second season – although that was pre-global pandemic, so who knows if it will come to fruition – writer Peter Bowker said he’s planned out the series for the characters established in season one but he did it with eyes open to the realities of show business. Unlike commercial series, where the whole cast is locked in for years up front, on a production like this it’s more year-by-year for some of the big name cast members, which means not all of the actors may be available when it comes time to film season two, originally planned to started production in September, although now, who knows when it might happen.

“I know that people like Sean and Helen and Lesley may well be demanded on other projects, and this young cast, who have now broken through so spectacularly, will also be in demand,” Mr. Bowker said in January during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association winter 2020 press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “Everybody at the moment wants to come back.”


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