Posts Tagged ‘ITV’

Sorry not to have updated this blog lately, but I’ve been busy at work once again! Anyway, this is really to say that I’m still here, and have been enjoying the latest smash hit costume drama, Downton Abbey. It has been drawing audiences of around 11 million in England and Wales alone, after the controversial decision by STV not to screen the show in Scotland.

It’s odd now to think that about a year ago it was being predicted that costume drama would disappear from British TV, and from ITV in particular, as a result of budget constraints. Sadly, it does still seem that TV adaptations of older literary classics are an endangered species, with very few such productions planned in the near future – the BBC is working on The Sisters, based on DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women in Love, and a new version of Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, with a script by Andrew Davies, and that’s about it at the moment. I thought someone was bound to commission a major Dickens adaptation for 2012 to tie in with his bicentenary, but have heard nothing on that front yet – though I’m hoping! (A Tale of Two Cities would probably be my choice, if anyone is wondering.)


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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 was excited to hear today that Dame Maggie Smith has now been lined up to head the cast for ITV’s major new costume drama series Downton Abbey, scripted  by Julian Fellowes of Gosford Park fame. Hugh Bonneville will also star, as well as a host of other famous names, and filming is due to start next month, which the series possibly arriving on TV in the UK in the autumn. It’s a co-production with the US, but I don’t know who will get it first. Here are two links to a couple of reports with more details:

 Upstairs Downstairs at Downton Abbey

Ex Coronation St star Rob in ITV1 costume drama

 Despite the confusing headline of the first report, this isn’t the forthcoming sequel to Upstairs Downstairs, which is being made for the BBC, but a different series along similar lines. Judging by the cast, it will be essential viewing!

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I’ve just finished watching this epic seven-part 1980s ITV mini-series about Scott and Amundsen’s race for the South Pole in 1911-12, starring Martin Shaw and Norwegian actor Sverre Anker Ousdal. It makes harrowing viewing at times, especially during the almost unbearable, drawn-out coverage of Scott and his men in the last desperate days of their lives. Directed by Ferdinand Fairfax, who also made Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), this comes from a period when TV companies seemed to keep making very expensive and long historical drama series – which sadly doesn’t often happen now!

I should say at the outset that I’m not any kind of expert on Scott or Amundsen and don’t know how accurate this account is. I believe it caused some controversy at the time, and it definitely portrays Scott as arrogant and largely responsible for equipping his expedition badly, taking ponies rather than enough dogs and skis – while Amundsen is seen as more competent and a better explorer, though he seems arrogant too at times. (I’d imagine some measure of arrogance is needed to mount an expedition like this in the first place.) Anyway, I’m hoping  to read more about them both and find out more background. (I would imagine there might be new books and documentaries in 2011/12 to mark the centenary.) Just looking at this as a drama, I find it enthralling and moving to watch, even though, or indeed because, it portrays these famous explorer-heroes as flawed human beings. It does show how terrible the weather was during that Antarctic winter, and how the conditions contributed to the tragedy.


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After watching the Sandy Welch BBC adaptation of Emma, I’ve been meaning to re-watch the older versions I own to see how they compare – and have now got round to seeing the short TV movie scripted by Andrew Davies and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence, which stars Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley. Here are just a few slightly rambling comments before I get on to the other versions!

After the more leisurely pace of a four-episode version (though even that was much faster than the older adaptations), this dramatisation does feel very short at just 107 minutes. It almost seems as if Harriet is introduced one minute and turning down Robert Martin the next, with Mr Knightley bitterly upbraiding Emma a minute after that. However, despite this fast pace, I felt as if Davies manages to pack in all the key scenes from the novel – it would be fascinating to see how he would have treated the story if he had adapted it at greater length.


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I was intrigued today to see an article in the Daily Telegraph about a new follow-up series to 1970s hit Upstairs, Downstairs being made, with Jean Marsh returning as Rose, now a housekeeper, and Dame Eileen Atkins also expected to star.

The original series was made by ITV but this will now be made by the BBC – Heidi Thomas, who did the screenplay for Cranford, is writing the script. ITV has a drama on a similar theme in production, Downton Abbey. It seems as if you wait ages for a series about the family and servants in a great house, then two come along at once!;)

 I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the original series of Upstairs Downstairs, so will have to try to catch up with some of it before the new one starts! Anyway, good to see the BBC making another costume drama – this one will begin around 1930.

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I find it very difficult to pick favourite books, movies, etc – but if I was forced to pick one novel which has meant the most to me in my life, then it would probably be Jane Eyre. So it’s surprising that, so far, I haven’t got round to writing about any of the many adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s great novel on this blog. Eventually I’d like to write about as many of them as I can – but, for starters, here are a few thoughts about the 1997  TV movie starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds, which has just been repeated on ITV3 in the UK. I saw it when it was first shown, but hadn’t remembered it all that well.

JaneEyreMorton2As with many single ITV dramatisations of long novels, the main problem with this version, directed by Robert Young and scripted by Richard Hawley, Kay Mellor and Peter Wright,  is that it is so short – 108 minutes according to the imdb.  Inevitably, large chunks have had to be left out, and there is very little of the young Jane’s time with the Reeds or at Lowood – just brief glimpses of key moments, like the Red Room and the death of Helen Burns. To be honest, I didn’t really mind skating over this part of the book quite quickly, as these sequences tend to be very demanding for child actresses, but a lot was lost.  Anyway, when seeing any dramatisation of Jane Eyre, I always find myself waiting eagerly for her first sight of Thornfield and her first meeting with Rochester, which of course is the centre of the book.


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