I’ve been meaning to write a posting about the 1970 BBC production of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which was the first TV costume drama I remember watching. I’ve managed to get hold of that series on VHS and do still intend to write about it soon – but have been distracted from that aim by getting the chance to watch the 1978 mini-series starring Susan Dey as Jo, Meredith Baxter-Birney as Meg and William Shatner as Friedrich Bhaer, which someone has kindly posted on a very popular video streaming website. I hope to be just in time to include this in the William Shatner blogathon, Shatnerthon, over at Stacia’s blog She Blogged by Night, though you will have to read to the end of this piece for the stuff about Shatner’s performance!
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and at the start, looking at the vivid colours and the 1970s feeling to it all, feared it might be too sugary – especially after seeing the picture on the DVD cover! That wasn’t the case, however. I loved it and now hope to buy the import region 1 DVD so I can watch it all over again – and compare it with other versions. Little Women was one of my favourite books as a child and I read it countless times, so I know the story well. This version mainly stays fairly close to the book, but makes some interesting shifts in emphasis and sometimes dramatises conflicts between characters which are kept under the surface in the book. Screenwriter Suzanne Clauser and director David Lowell Rich aren’t afraid of powerful emotions and at times there are heart-wrenching scenes, but I thought it only rarely tipped over into sentimentality.