The BBC did say a while back that they were not going to do any more classic novel adaptations for a bit, but the credit crunch seems to have sent them straight back to devotedly doing what they sell best, because they are shortly about to produce a new four-parter of Emma. I enjoyed the defensiveness in that press release, viz, Ben Stephenson, Controller Drama Commissioning: "2009 will also see Desperate Romantics and Small Island burst onto the screen and we believe that this offers viewers a real range of stories about our heritage." Desperate Romantics is about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 'a real range of stories' lol! Small Island by Andrea Levy I read a few years ago - it's about postwar Carribean migrants to GB - and it's slightly more plausible to speak of it as being some distance away from the Jane Austen classic serial gold standard, but anyhow, moving along... maybe I'm reading too much into it, but the press release really seems to me to be offering a string of justifications for yet another Austen serial, knowing how much complaining there's been about the prevalence of austeny television over the last two years, but at the same time without actually genuinely believing any of the points it halfheartedly puts forward. And why on earth not? Emma is one of the greatest novels in the English language. BBC folks, it's really OK to say that. Ah, well. I also appreciated the snarky postscript about the 1996 ITV version.
A few musings:
1) it's nice to see somebody else is being given a turn at writing an Austen television adaptation
2) the serial will be four hours total which strikes me as almost long enough to do a good job of getting to grips with Emma
3) Over at Austenblog there is a delightful spontaneous proletarian uprising demanding the instatement of Richard Armitage in the role of Mr Knightley.
(Armitage as John Thornton in North & South)
Several Austenblog commenters pointed out that Armitage is almost exactly the right age (37) for Mr Knightley; this does seem to clinch it somehow but assuming he's not available who else might be good for the part? (Please don't say Colin Firth.) And the other parts, who do you like for them?
(that's really all I wanted to write but I'm reminded that in the 'Filmography' section of a recent book about Jane Austen movies, they have listed a 1994 Northanger Abbey starring Anna Paquin, Anthony Hopkins, Ioan Gruffud and other terrific actors, which unfortunately does not exist in reality and was totally invented by Austen fangirls wishlisting away on the internet. Oops.)