Mobil Masterpiece Theatre
Airdate: Nov. 14 - Dec. 5/93


It's Portugal in 1809 and Napoleon lords it over most of Europe. Sir Arthur Wellesley, soon to become the Duke of Wellington, has just defeated a French force and rests his troops before crossing the border to take on Napoleon's army in Spain. Sgt. Richard Sharpe, a rough-and-tough young British rifleman, saves Wellesley's life when the officer is attacked by a French patrol and the grateful Wellesley promotes him immediately to lieutenant.

So begin the action-packed exploits of daredevil hero Sharpe, played by Sean Bean in two stories, each a two-parter, airing on Mobil-funded Masterpiece Theatre Sundays at 9 p.m. (ET) beginning November 14 nationally on PBS under the umbrella title, "Sharpe". Adapted by Eoghan Harris from writer Bernard Cornwell's best-selling novels, "Sharpe's Rifles" and "Sharpe's Eagle" depict the rifleman and his band of equally hard-nosed soldiers risking their lives in dangerous missions behind French lines.

The handsome, tall Bean in the title role displays the talent and diverse skills that won him acclaim from critics and viewers as the evil rake in Masterpiece Theatre's "Clarissa" two seasons ago. A former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he also appeared on British stages and in a number of films such as "Patriot Games" with Harrison Ford and "Stormy Monday" with Melanie Griffith. He plays the gamekeeper, Mellors, in Ken Russell's forthcoming adaptation of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" for the BBC.

Both "Sharpe" adventures, filmed on location in the Crimea (now part of the newly-emerged Ukraine), Portugal and England are filled with battles involving hundreds of extras, with sword fights and other acts of derring-do.

Sharpe is a favourite of Wellesley (David Troughton) and of an artful Irish agent, Hogan (Brian Cox), who becomes his mentor. But the new lieutenant must come to terms not only with his new fellow officers, but also with his own men. The officers hate him because he's not upper class and his men don't respect him because he's no better socially than they are. Through skill and daring on the battlefield, he proves his worth and overcomes the prejudice.

In "Sharpe's Rifles" (Nov. 14 and 21), Wellesley assigns the hero and his battle-hardened riflemen to a dangerous and top- secret mission. They must escort a band of Spanish guerillas behind French lines. The Spaniards are led by the beautiful and brave Teresa (Assumpta Serna) and the nobleman soldier Blas Vivar (Simon Andreu), who carry a mysterious box. As Sharpe falls in love with Teresa, he tries to learn what the box contains and why he and his men must risk their lives in battle to protect it.

In "Sharpe's Eagle" (Nov. 28 and Dec. 5), Sharpe and his band set out to avenge the loss of a troupe of British soldiers and their regimental flag, the fault of their incompetent commander, Sir Henry Simmerson. The young rifleman is also determined to capture a French regimental mascot, in the form of a carved golden eagle, and to settle his own score with two arrogant British officers whose mistreatment of a beautiful widow, Josefina (Katia Caballero) has reduced her to being a camp follower.

Commissioned for Central Television by Central Films, "Sharpe" was produced by Celtic Films and Picture Palace. Tom Clegg directed, with Malcolm Craddock as producer and Ted Childs and Muir Sutherland as executive producers. Masterpiece Theatre is presented on PBS by WGBH, Boston, where Rebecca Eaton is series executive producer. Russell Baker is host.

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