We have been so tired of TV shows lately. Most of our faves are over for the season and few won’t begin again until summer. We have been watching reruns mostly and it is getting old. Last week Jim said, hey don’t we have some BBC miniseries DVD’s? Yes folks, he said that! So we went through my considerable collection and chose a couple to watch over the course of many nights. They have some masculine plot devices so they are not merely love stories. But of course that’s always included!
Bleak House was written by Charles Dickens and published in twenty monthly installments from September 1852 to March 1853. This type of serial drama was very popular in England and continues to this day in so many forms.
At the heart of the story lies the long-running litigation of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. A hundred years earlier an extremely wealthy man named John Jarndyce left several conflicting wills which have been battled in court ever since. Two young orphans Richard and Ada who are wards in the case are taken to live with the original’s ancestor, John Jarndyce who has removed himself from the case. Esther Summerson is engaged as companion to Ada and has a mysterious past.
This is my favorite Dickens novel and the BBC did a fabulous job in adapting it in this miniseries. It is vast and complex, filled with every kind of character imaginable. There is blackmail, legal dishonesty, murder, and drugs. Opium was a terrible scourge at that time and those addicted to it were referred to as having “sold their souls”. There is also friendship, heroism, sacrifice, and reconciliation. Oh and one character dies of spontaneous human combustion.
The Way We Live Now is a satirical novel written by Anthony Trollope. It was also serialized. It was born of Trollope’s horror of the immorality and dishonesty he found in the political, financial, and aristocracy of 1875 England. As one can imagine, this book was savagely reviewed when it was first published.
The financial system was his special target which was personified through Augustus Melmotte, an unscrupulous, vile investor and his unpolished family. It has bribes, swindles, vendettas, and corruption of every kind. The good characters are horribly used and abused and some do not make it. This book has always reminded me of Vanity Faire. The satirical quality makes the audience laugh instead of despair.
The miniseries stars David Suchet as Melmotte and is as far away from the charming and well-groomed Hercule Poirot as one can imagine. It also stars Matthew Macfadyen from Pride and Prejudice who is dashing but addicted to gambling and a complete waste of space. Trollope’s characterizations are so penetrating that you actually recopgnize some of the characters after 135 years. Especially in the news.
What are your favorite miniseries?
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