Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Andrew Davies: BBC costume drama going "Downmarket"?

David Copperfield 1999

Yet another adaptation of David Copperfield? *Yawns* (A very cute, very young Daniel Radcliffe in the BBC's 1999 adaptation)

Thanks to Charleybrown, for the link!

Have a look at this article from the Telegraph.

Andrew Davies, television's master of literary adaptations and the writer behind the BBC's award-winning Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Pride and Prejudice, said the corporation is interested only in the "popular warhorses" of literary fiction. 

His planned adaptations of Dombey and Son, one of Charles Dickens' lesser-read stories, and of the Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope, were both scrapped. Instead, the BBC has asked for a re-tread of David Copperfield, which has had numerous television outings. 

(Click here to read the full article and interview with Andrew Davies.)

Auntie Beeb - what are you thinking? Tired rehashes of popular Austen and Dickens novels instead of fresh adaptations of forgotten gems? As much as I love both Austen and Dickens, the last thing we need is another TV version of David Copperfield.

North and South

Daniela-Denby-Ashe in North and South

Look at the success of the BBC's Elizabeth Gaskell adaptations - North and South, Wives and Daughters, and Cranford. The immense popularity of these series has spawned a Gaskell revival of sorts, with Mrs. Gaskell's books finally getting the readership they deserve. Or Lark Rise to Candleford, based on a series of books by Flora Thompson that few people had heard of only 3 years ago. Now, the BBC's Lark Rise is into it's third series, and going strong.

BBC, if you're going to restrict future costume dramas to popular classics that have already been adapted for television umpteen times, please, just don't bother. 

Now - on a more constructive note, here are 10 forgotten classics that I would LOVE to see the BBC take on:

1. Evelina by Fanny Burney (BBC, if you don't want to do any more 19th century "bonnet dramas", how about adapting some pre-bonnet-era classics?)

2. Cecilia by Fanny Burney

3. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

4. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (this would be difficult to adapt, but incredible to watch if it was done right!)

5. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

6. Belinda by Maria Edgeworth

7. Any L.M. Montgomery book, but I'd love it if they did an adaptation of The Blue Castle (perhaps a co-production with a Canadian TV network?).

8. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Okay, okay, I said I didn't want any more Austen adaptations. But this is the one exception. Mansfield Park is, in my opinion, Jane Austen's best novel, and yet there is still no satisfactory film version. Yes, it would be difficult to translate to screen, but if anyone were to be up to the challenge, it would be the BBC - right? Or so I thought. . . :-( 

9. Any one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays. The BBC made a brief return to Shakespeare in 2005 with four Shakespeare stories set in the modern-day world (ShakespeaRetold), but I'd like to see some Shakespeare in it's original setting. It doesn't have to be big-budget, just well acted, with a good script! Duh! Exotic locations aren't necessary, either. Do one of the Histories that are set in England.

10. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. One of my favourite books as a little girl. Make it into a two-part Christmas special, or something like that. The 1995 version changed the book, the characters, the ending. . . it even changed the setting from late-19th-century England to WWI-era America. The 1986 version was better, but it's getting a bit dated.

Okay, strictly speaking, these aren't "literary adaptations", but I think they'd be worth making all the same:

*A biopic of Fanny Burney

*A biopic of the Brontes


What are some of your favourite books that you would *love* to see made into a movie or TV series?


Caroline said...

Maybe we should get up a petition! Ditto on Agnes Grey and Mansfield Park.

LadyBug-Laurie said...

I've never ready Agnes Grey but I would love to see Villette or any other lesser known Bronte novel.

A real adaptation of Mansfield Park would be excellent as well as an adaptation or especially of Austen's Lady Susan or some of her short stories (unfinished though they may be).

Any L.M. Montgomery adaptations would be nice or any Elizabeth Gaskell would be nice.
Shakespeare has dropped off at the moment and I'd enjoy seeing some of his lesser known plays even if they were only updated in some way.

I would love to see some Alcott adapted, especially Eight Cousins and Rose In Bloom. Dickens has been done a lot recently but because I really haven't read any of his I'd enjoy more of his - I'd like to see a good version of Two Cities (know any?).

Can't think of any others except I always wish for more Agatha Christie. :)

Marian said...

I second Villette and A Little Princess!!! I just love Villette, and I've seen other people on the internet saying they'd like to see that one, too.

Marian said...

I'd like to add The Heir of Redclyffe, too. It was an extremely popular book in its day, but now it's pretty obscure. It would take some careful script-writing, but it would make a good miniseries!

The Editrix said...

Laurie, I read somewhere that Fay Weldon, who wrote the script for P&P 1980, is working on a screenplay for Sanditon, one of Austen's unfinished novels. Let's hope the rumour is true, and that someone makes the series once the screenplay is all finished!

Rose in Bloom - that's one of my favourite Alcott books! I would love for someone to make a movie version. . . An Old-Fashioned Girl would be great, too.

Marian - The Heir of Redclyffe - when was it published? Who was the author? I don't think I've heard of it before. . .

Marian said...

The Heir of Redclyffe was written by Charlotte Yonge, and published in 1853. The 3rd post down on my blog is a book review of it (I just finished reading it recently). It's not as good as Jane Eyre, but it's got its moments, and great messages. :)

The Editrix said...

Okay, I think I've heard of Charlotte Yonge. I'll have to have a look at your review!

Lady Celia said...

I concur, a petition should be got up. I am so disappointed that they are not going to make Domby and Son. I was really looking forward to seeing that. *sigh* And what about a really good adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel? Or Twelfth Night? Or... I, gosh, I could go on...

Alexandra said...

The best adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel has all ready been made, IMO...the 1982 version starring Anthony Andrews and the absolutely gorgeous Jane Seymour. Love, love, love!!!

Have to think about more books. Good post!!!

The Editrix said...

Hmm, must read the Scarlet Pimpernel books. . . and watch the movie. . . I've heard from so many people that they're really good. . .

BTW Laurie - I haven't seen any movie versions of A Tale of Two Cities. I think the most recent one was done in the late '80s.

Anonymous said...

Mansfield Park, of course. Agnes Grey, too, but I didn't care too much for that book. To me, it lacks a satisfactory climax and character development. I agree with LadyBug-Laurie on Two Cities. Now there's one they haven't done in a while! Madame Defarge! It would be interesting to see them do some more Russian classics like The Brothers Karamazov, too. Maybe I'll think up some more later.

I totally agree with you on Elizabeth Gaskell. Those adaptations were so great, why can't the BBC learn from that? *sighs in frustration* And it's also kind of annoying how the BBC seems to be looking down on "bonnet dramas" now. Honestly, past eras are so much more interesting than our own! Sorry, I have to calm down. :)

Anonymous said...

Whoop! Sorry! That last comment was by me, and I forgot to say that. It's not really my name anyway, but as I still haven't gotten a Google Account (eventually I will!), I'll sign with the following:


P.S. Hope all this didn't sound too weird. LOL

The Editrix said...

LOL, not weird at all! Thanks for your comments! And you should start a blog, not just a Google account. :-) I think you'd be great at blogging - you seem to have a gift for sharing your thoughts through writing!

And it's also kind of annoying how the BBC seems to be looking down on "bonnet dramas" now. Honestly, past eras are so much more interesting than our own! Sorry, I have to calm down. :)

Yeah - there's nothing wrong with TV series with a modern-day setting, but for anyone who's even remotely interested in history, period dramas can be absolutely fascinating to watch. And that's just one reason why I <3 period drama. . .

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the compliment! And yeah, I do want to start a blog sometime, but I'm kind of busy right now with college and all that. That's why I'm putting it off blogging for now. But you'll be one of the first to know when I do start blogging. :D (BTW, looove the "why period drama" post.)


The Editrix said...

LOL, thanks! And yes, let me know as soon as you start a blog!

Emily said...

OK I am SO behind. I have got to start reading more....I haven't finished the Jane Austen series yet!

The Editrix said...

The Jane Austen series (?)

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, Elise, I've finished Mansfield Park and think it's just wonderful! =D

There were times when I thought Fanny would choose the second fellow rather than the first fellow, because it seemed that the second fellow really was redeeming himself. (I'm being careful about spoilers, in case someone hasn't read it yet.) So what happened at the climax was a real surprise.

That's something else I really like about Mansfield Park is that I couldn't predict anything that happened next. Novels of Manners are often perceived as being predictable, but this one wasn't at all! I kept guessing until almost the very end.

I could go on and on about it, but I won't hijack your comments box! =P

Anyway, I don't think I'm ready for a movie just yet, as I'd like the characters to really sink into my mind before I watch someone else's idea of them, no matter how well realised. (Clearly, I'm in the minority!)

To answer your other question, however, one favourite novel of mine which I'd love to see made into a movie is The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton--a bizarre, almost mythical Fantasy written in 1908.

The Editrix said...

Embrethiliel - I'm so glad you enjoyed it! MP is one of Jane Austen's most underrated novels, in my opinion.

You're right, it's exciting, romantic and thought-provoking, and it keeps you guessing right up until the last few pages - unlike most JA books, where you know the heroine is going to end up with the good guy in the end. Henry Crawford is almost the only Austen bad boy who seems like he might have been capable of redemption, which makes it so intriguing to wonder "what if". . .

When you decide to watch a movie version, I recommend the 1983 version. The 2007 version is one of the worst Austen adaptations I've ever seenm whilst the 1999 adaptation provides an interesting (and controversial) "alternate" take on the novel - in other words, it's radically different to the book. . .