Television: The Complete Jane Austen
Jane Austen Fans Rrejoice, All 6 Novels, 4 New Adaptations, On PBS Starring Jan. 13
Jane Austen can boast of thousands of fans on MySpace. There are hundreds of Austen fan clubs and websites. And when you Google “Jane Austen,” the results exceed four-million.
Last year there were two films inspired by Austen – Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway, and the contemporary Jane Austen Book Club, which a lot of guys enjoyed, along with the usual masses of female admirers.
So what has brought about the Renaissance for the 42-year-old English novelist who died in 1817? Maybe because she was very smart, very strong, and knew how to tell a good story. Some folks say what she wrote was like Sex and the City in the 18th century.
Austen only wrote six books, and in her day was considered a spinster, who lived with her family her whole life. She wrote her first novel Sense and Sensibility when she was 35, and she died six years and six books later. She never left the south of England, yet her work has been embraced around the world for generations.
For the first time on American television, adaptations of all of Jane Austen’s much-loved novels, plus a new drama, Miss Austen Regrets, based on Austen’s own bittersweet love life, are being presented as a complete collection. On Masterpiece Theatre starting Jan. 13 on PBS.
Award-winning screen writer Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bleak House) adapted four of the six Austen books. He says if he were forced to choose, he’d pick Pride and Prejudice as his favorite novel. “Because Darcy is probably the most charismatic of all the Austen heroes. Those powerful mysterious men are what make Austen so wonderful. Men of few words with tight britches and high black boots. That’s what the women go for,” states Davies. [Note to self– Oh, that’s what women want.]
What is it about Austen’s work that speaks to a modern audience? Davies explains, “You’ve got this universal thing, love stories. That’s something that never goes out of date. And Jane Austen manages to do it in a way that doesn’t insult our intelligence. It’s witty. It’s ingenious. The plots are believable. The obstacles seem real and the outset insurmountable. You get surprises.”
For more than 35 years, PBS has showcased the very best British dramas as part of the Masterpiece Theatre lineup. And now the show breaks new ground by presented the Austen stories as a complete collection. The following is the upcoming schedule.
Persuasion (airs Jan. 13) was Austen’s last book, published posthumously. The brand new Masterpiece Theatre production has Sally Hawkins (Little Britain) playing Anne Elliot, destine for spinsterhood at age 27 after refusing the proposal of Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones from Casanova). Chance brings them together again years later, when her better days are past, his are definitely ahead, as he’s now rich and free to play the field among eligible young beauties. Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) co-stars as Anne’s spendthrift father.
Northanger Abbey (airs Jan. 20), adapted by Davies, is Austen’s gentle parody of gothic fiction. Felicity Jones (Meadowlands) plays romance-obsessed Catherine Morland, who is invited to a medieval country house that appeals to her most lurid fantasies.
Mansfield Park (airs Jan. 27) is considered Austen’s most complex plot. It stars Billie Piper (Doctor Who) as Fanny Price, who goes to live with prosperous relatives at Mansfield Park. Fanny navigates a labyrinth of intrigues and affairs among the occupants of the house.
Miss Austen Regrets (airs Feb. 3) is a film biography starring Olivia Williams. It dramatizes Jane Austen’s lost loves and reveals that the authoress wrote from personal experience. It explores how she played the courtship game, and how the “happily ever after” eluded her.
Pride and Prejudice (airs Feb. 10 and 24) stars Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary) as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle (The Coast of Utopia) as Elizabeth Bennet, in the definitive adaptation by Andrew Davies of the most popular Austen novel. With five daughters, no sons and an entailed estate, the Bennets are in dire straits as they try to arrange advantageous marriages.
Emma (airs Mar. 23), adapted by Davies, has Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator) in the title role as the matchmaker who professes no interest in matrimony for herself, despite attention from suitors.
Sense and Sensibility (airs Mar. 30 and Apr. 6), adapted by Davis, has Hattie Monahan (The Golden Compass) playing the reliable Elinor Dashwood, and Charity Wakefield (Jane Eyre) as her impulsive sister Marianne. Though poor, they attract a throng of very promising gentlemen.
Tune in and enjoy the proper English Sex in the City-style romps.