Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Must admit I haven’t seen The Night Watch, the new BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel set during the Second World War, as yet – though I do hope to do so. It was shown a few nights ago in the UK.

However, the BBC TV Blog has kindly been in touch with me to ask me to pass on a link to a fascinating piece by production designer Martin Boddinson about how he converted the sets for Lark Rise to Candleford for the interiors in The Night Watch – a real challenge given the very different periods of the two dramas! I know a lot of people who visit my blog are fans of Lark Rise, so thought you might be interested in reading Martin’s piece.

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Someone from the BBC TV blog has just kindly got in touch with me – for anyone who hasn’t come across this, it is a blog where the BBC publishes behind-the-scenes posts from actors, directors, writers, producers, and others from TV shows. Anyway, they asked me to let people know about a new posting there, by Pam Downes, the costume designer for Lark Rise to Candleford. Season four of this popular series has just started showing in the UK. Pam has written about her work with the characters, and has said she’ll get involved in the comments and, as far as possible, answer any questions that people might have on the Lark Rise costumes.

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David Tennant as Casanova

Oddly enough, there were two versions of Casanova brought to the screen in 2005. The better-known of the two is the lavish movie starring Heath Ledger – I have seen this film, a couple of years ago now, but remember finding it a bit disappointing as a drama, although Ledger was great and I enjoyed the Venetian settings, costumes etc. I should really give it a second try. Anyway, I’ve just belatedly watched all of  the three-part BBC mini-series made the same year, starring David Tennant, Peter O’Toole and Rose Byrne – I’d only seen bits and pieces up to now – and just wanted to write a short posting to say I loved this irreverent version of the story. It isn’t exactly what I’d usually think of as a costume drama, since the characters are very much modern people in 18th-century dress, and the language is very 21st-century too, full of contemporary slang and teasing references to the present day. But I found it  seductively enjoyable – and, perhaps surprisingly given the subject matter, I felt it was ultimately about romance rather than sex.


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It often frustrates me that so many TV adaptations of literary classics made in the 1960s and 70s aren’t available to be seen – so I was interested to see a news story in The Daily Telegraph about the rediscovery in the BBC archives of a version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina first broadcast in 1961, starring Claire Bloom as Anna and a pre-Bond Sean Connery as Vronsky. This is being released on DVD in the UK next month. It was released on DVD in the US last year, so the master tape must have been found in the archives slightly longer ago than is being claimed in news reports. Anyway, I think it’s exciting to see a 1960s BBC drama being released, and am now hoping the same might happen for some of the other goodies which still exist – there are several older BBC adaptations which are available to see on a computer monitor if you visit the BFI mediatheque in  London, so there must be a hope that some of these could turn up on DVD in the future if there is enough interest!

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Andrew Buchan and Alun Armstrong in Garrow's Law, returning this autumn

Despite all the cutbacks to TV drama, there are some exciting period dramas still coming up – so I thought I’d do a little round-up of what is in store this autumn and winter.  Goodies coming up in the UK include ITV’s major drama Downton Abbey, which is scripted by Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park fame and set in a great country house in 1912 – the amazing cast is headed by Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville. This series already has an unofficial fansite.

Also coming up on ITV1 is what I believe is the last drama written by great scriptwriter Alan Plater before his recent death, Joe Maddison’s War, a two-hour film which stars Kevin Whately as a shipyard worker in the Second World War. Sir Derek Jacobi and Melanie Hill are also in this one and it was reportedly filmed on location in Newcastle earlier this year, so hopefully will turn up during the new season.

Also due to be shown this autumn is the second series of the BBC’s 18th-century legal drama  Garrow’s Law , currently filming in Scotland – I’m a fan of this series, starring Andrew Buchan, Alun Armstrong and Lyndsey Marshal, so it is another one I’m really looking forward to.

The BBC is also currently filming an adaptation of Michel Faber’s bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White, set in 1870s London and focusing on a secret relationship between a businessman and a young prostitute – this is being filmed in Liverpool and it has been reported that the cast is headed by Richard E Grant and Gillian Anderson. It’s directed by Marc Munden who made Channel 4’s Civil War series The Devil’s Whore.

BBC2 has a one-off drama coming up this autumn called Christopher and His Kind, adapted from writer Christopher Isherwood’s memoir of the same name and looking at his life in Berlin in the early 1930s which inspired Cabaret – filming on this was done in May and June in Belfast. Matt Smith, the current star of Doctor Who, plays Isherwood, with Toby Jones and Lindsay Duncan also starring.

Lindsay Duncan is also among the cast for two-part BBC2 drama The Sinking of the Laconia, a wartime drama scripted by Alan Bleasdale about an armed British vessel sunk by a German U-boat – Andrew Buchan stars in this too, as well as Brian Cox. There are also dramas coming up on BBC2 about the making of Coronation Street (really strange that this one isn’t on ITV, which has been showing the series for 50 years!) and the early years of TV comedy legends Morecambe and Wise, with Victoria Wood cast as Morecambe’s mum.

I’m not sure whether you’d call this next one a costume drama or sci-fi – a cross between the two, I suppose! Mark Gatiss has adapted HG Wells’ classic The First Men in the Moon for BBC Four, and also stars as  Edwardian scientist Professor Cavor. BBC Four also has an adaptation by William Ivory of DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women in Love coming up, melded together under the title The Sisters, starring Rosamund Pike and Rachael Stirling. Another classic being adapted for BBC Four is John Braine’s Room at the Top – I don’t know who is starring in this one.

I don’t think Channel 4 has announced its new season line-up yet but hopefully may have one or two period dramas in store too.

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I’ve now watched this Andrew Davies adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel at least three times over the years (it might even be four), and my admiration grows each time. I think it must be one of his very greatest TV adaptations, up there with his takes on Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair – and it is yet another one from the late 1990s, a period which saw an extraordinary flowering of classic adaptations. All the cast are superb, with my very favourite performances coming from Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon. For me, Wives and Daughters is Gaskell’s masterpiece, and this is a version which does it justice. Sadly she didn’t live to write the last few pages of her novel, but I rather like the ending this mini-series supplies – though I’ll discuss that at the end!

This mini-series looks beautiful, set in the countryside throughout (apart from brief glimpses of Cynthia in London and Roger in Africa), with endless shots of sweeping green landscapes and country houses. Director Nicholas Renton also made the fine 1998 version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, which has a similar feeling for country scenery. However, like his FFTMC, this isn’t just an idyllic picture of country life – it is made clear how characters are hemmed in and how difficult it is for anyone to escape the atmosphere of gossip and all the little rules governing village society. Wives and Daughters doesn’t deal with changing times as overtly as North and South, but the theme is still there, as is class conflict. The Squire in particular is clinging to the past while everything changes around him.

For anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the mini-series, the story centres on a doctor’s daughter, Molly Gibson, who gains a new step-mother and step-sister, Hyacinth and Cynthia, when her father remarries – and on the tensions within this ill-assorted instant family. However, if you haven’t read/seen it, you’d be best not to read on until you have, as I’ll be discussing aspects of the whole plot – and also, as with North and South, you have a great double treat in store from the book and film.:)


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I see the BBC has announced several new films and dramas at Cannes (not sure if these are all feature films?) – some we already knew about but others are new. Here are a couple of links for more information, to the BBC press office and Screen Daily.

Several of these are period/costume dramas- one new announcement is an adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s book The Invisible Woman about Charles Dickens’ secret relationship with actress Ellen Ternan. I thought Tomalin’s book was excellent and the screenwriter, Abi Morgan, did a great job in adapting Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, so this could be a fine production, but all the same, I’m a bit fed up that adaptations of Dicken’s actual works, such as the Dombey and Son Andrew Davies had been working on, get scrapped, but there is still money to fund a biopic focusing on a scandal. Maybe if it does really well it will persuade the BBC to get on with some new versions of some of his novels or short stories – there are loads of those which have never been adapted at all, and I haven’t heard anything for ages about the David Copperfield Davies is now supposed to be working on instead of Dombey.

Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton star in The Awakening, which is described as a classic ghost story in the tradition of MR James and set in 1921, but isn’t actually a classic adaptation – it’s a new original script by Stephen Volk and director Nick Murphy. My hopes are high for this one as the BBC has such a great tradition of ghost stories – I wonder if it will turn up on TV or in the cinema at Christmas?

Stephen Fry is writing and directing Hallelujah!, about the build-up to the first performance of Handel’s Messiah – this is at an early stage by the sounds of it but should be well worth seeing.

In post-production is Ralph Fiennes’ eagerly-awaited film of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – Fiennes will star as well as directing, and Vanessa Redgrave also stars, along with Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and James Nesbitt. The new BBC Films version of Jane Eyre is also currently being filmed, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender and directed by Cary Fukunaga – I really have to wonder if a new version can possibly add anything to all the great adaptations which have already been made of this novel, but I know I will go and see it just the same.

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