Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Part 2: The Miniseries

Unlike most people I think of summer as the time of the miniseries. Most people associate them with cold winter nights in January and February, in other words, when Masterpiece no-longer-Theater airs their classic line-up, but not me. Most likely this is to do with the fact that the first time I watched Andrew Davies' Pride and Prejudice it was mid-July 1996. Unlike everyone else I know who watched it back in February of that year I was too busy finishing up senior year of high school. Soon after finally getting my diploma (held until I returned my cap and gown) I started a crash course in Jane Austen. After all 1996 was the perfect year for Austen, Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility was in theaters as well as Gweneth Paltrow's Emma, and of course, Pride and Prejudice. I would read the book, then watch the accompanying adaptation. I watched Pride and Prejudice in one sitting. It was all I asked for for my birthday that year (VHS of course!) But since then I have developed a veritable fount of miniseries knowledge and information, and I will give you the best of the best (which tend to be Andrew Davies centric), but I have also watched the worst of the worst as well, so when I say watch, think of all that I've seen to make it a must watch. Also for my facebook friends I have made an even more extensive list contained in my notes!

First with the Austen adaptations:

Sense and Sensibility
- The 1995 Emma Thompson version, mainly because of Hugh Laurie, but also because Willoughby in the newer version looks like a monkey and the clothes are crappy (which they tried to justify with a documentary on the disc but I'm still crying foul).

Pride and Prejudice - The 1995 Andrew Davies' adaptation staring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle created the modern miniseries. As one reviewer said, "Man goes into lake, man comes out of lake, world changes."

Mansfield Park - The 2007 Billie Piper version, and yes it takes big liberties, but it's still a lot of fun, and the Crawfords are superbly cast. Also I won't talk to you about the Frances O'Connor version, there was not slave trading in Jane Austen's novels, it might be historically correct, but Harold Pinter raping slaves? NO!

Emma - The 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version, because I can't bring myself to like the Kate Beckinsale version due to Mark Strong being a creepy Knightly. Also Alan Cumming is perfect as Mr. E.

Northanger Abbey - The 2007 Andrew Davies' adaptation is possibly his best Austen adaption yet! Who knew it was so funny! Also the inclusion of more of the contemporary Gothic literature from Anne Radcliffe and others is sheer genius.

Persuasion - I like both the 1995 version with Amanda Root and the 2007 version with Sally Hawkins. The Sally Hawkins version is more liberal with the source material, but Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy) as Sir Walter Elliot is perfect! As is Tobias Menzies as William Elliot.

Thackeray, a nice bridge between Austen and the Brontes:

Vanity Fair - 1998 Andrew Davies' adaptation with Natasha Little is perfect in every way and doesn't miss the point of a "novel without a heroine" like the Reese Witherspoon version.

Now onto the Bronte's, who I really can't hate for hating Jane Austen, everyone can have their own opinion (though Mark Twain seemed to have an unreasonable hatred of Jane):

Jane Eyre - 2006 adaptation with Toby Stephens is the first adaptation I have just loved. Plus filmed at the same castle as The Princess Bride!

The Brontes of Haworth - 1973 docudrama on their lives, totally fascinating, plus a young Michael Kitchen (Foyle of Foyle's War).

Elizabeth Gaskell:

Wives and Daughters - 1999 Andrew Davies' possibly BEST EVER adaptation. Michael Gambon won the BAFTA for this and it's not a surprise in the least. Just perfect.

North and South - 2004 adaptation has slow parts, but the ending is perfect. Made Richard Armitage the next Colin Firth.

Cranford - 2007 adaptation, so sad, be prepared for lots of death.

Dickens, of which I've watched alot and enjoyed, but only one I truly loved:

Little Dorrit - 2008 Andrew Davies' adaptation with a perfect cast, and Gareth from The Office in a bizzare cameo (you have to love Mackenzie Crook!)


The Pallisers - 1974 tv series, a little dated, but still fabulous, and there are rumors Andrew Davies is doing a new adaptation!

Barchester Chronicles - 1982, and if you can get through the slow first episode, some of the funniest acting from Alan Rickman ever!

The Way We Live Now - 2001 Andrew Davies, and it shows that David Suchet can act! (I really had my doubts).

He Knew He Was Right - 2004, perfection by Andrew Davies, Bill Nighy, so funny, but you can't top David Tennant in this production nor a knife weilding Claudie Blakley.

George Eliot:

Middlemarch - 1994 and the start of the Davies Dynasty, which he is ironically re-writing to be shot again!

Daniel Deronda - 2004 Andrew Davies, introduces us to Hugh Dancy and somehow was able to make Hugh Bonneville scary!

Flora Thompson:

Lark Rise to Candleford - 2008, perfection and happiness in a world where nothing goes too badly.

John Galsworthy:

The Forsyte Saga - 2002 and perhaps the best miniseries in existence! You will cry till you feel slightly ill, but it's worth it. Also how Corin Redgrave didn't win a BAFTA is beyond me. Don't miss part two, "To Let" which continues the saga. Also lets hope that now Damian Lewis' tv series Life was cancelled they will finish the series with the final chapter.


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