Tess and other t*ss

Not that BBC 1’s adaptation of Tess of the D’Ubervilles is t*ss, far from it. I am loving Tess on BBC 1 and, even though I have no leanings in that direction, I am probably also slightly in love with Gemma Arterton in the lead role. She has the mouth that Alec, Angel and others fall hook, line and sinker for and hair to die for. Well, it’s period. And as for Hans Matheson playing Alec – could he have a more malicious, less trustworthy jaw or hairline?

It’s all so superbly done – and, having caught up with ep 3 last night on the iPlayer – it’s just so goddamn TRAGIC. Just the way Hardy wrote it: all awfulness, chance and fate and slips of a letter under a mat. Angel fails to live up to his name and just can’t forgive Tess for bearing a child to a man before him, even though she was raped. Their wedding night ends unconsummated, after loaded kisses by a roaring fire are twice rudely interrupted. Instead the couple part two brown and grey mornings later, Tess humping her own badly tied luggage onto a stagecoach alone, without even a kiss goodbye.

The whole production – an in-house BBC job led by writer David Nicholls (of Cold Feet and Much Ado About Nothing) – is fabulous. It looks dreary and sad, now that the summer of youth is past, just as we think Dorset should have looked in the late 19th century. The ladies have mud on the hems of their dresses. Perhaps some of the hedges are a little mechanically trimmed but, really, I’m casting around for criticism here.

The best thing about this production is it feels like Thomas Hardy’s novel, televised. No kooky time travel angle, a la Lost in Austen. No mucking about with the plot (as far as I can recall it, some 20 years after reading it). I’m eagerly looking forward to next week and wondering when the BBC or anyone else will be brave enough to put programmes online BEFORE their television TX. Is it from the book or a previous TV adaptation that I have a mental image of blood dripping through a ceiling from the floor above? Can’t wait to find out.

Also enjoying Mutual Friends, BBC 1 again, Losing It on BBC 2 and The Family on C4. God, I love autumn. The leaves are changing colour and there’s some good stuff on TV at last. Who says TV’s finest hour was in the 1970s?


Back to Austen

Just a very quick observation on ep two of ITV 1’s Lost in Austen which aired last night. It’s actually, in my humble opinion, not very good.

It look sumptuous and ticks all the right costume drama boxes and Amanda Price, Jemima Rooper’s character, looks suitably out of place in all the Regency action and finery. But there’s a simple reason for that and it’s not to do with the gags about “lippy”, “paracetamols” and other 21st century minutiae that Price has dragged into the 19th century in her time travels.

No, if I may be so bold, the problem with watching this is that Rooper has such a common face. Or maybe it’s the under-bite. But compared to the actresses playing the various Austen ladies, she is just plain, plain, plain. I can’t stop looking at her jaw which looks as if she’s harbouring two little marshmallows just inside her lower lip to munch on later.

Sorry. I’m sure she’s really nice and everything. But I don’t think I’ll be watching next week.



still wandering around in Austen…

…while waiting for a DVD to arrive so I can appraise another, different TV programme. It’s a hard life, this media freelancing.

Thanks to the marvels of the ITV.com catch up TV service, which wasn’t too stuttery except when I tried to print a picture-heavy document at the same time as watching (just because I almost can), I have now watched the first ep of Lost in Austen properly.

Journalistic integrity binds me to post, therefore, that there is in fact some comment about “the extraordinary fit” of Miss Price’s britches (or is it breeches? difficult to transcribe) and that Mrs Bennett does endeavour to find “something less provoking of attention” for Miss Price (Amanda, played by Jemima Rooper) to wear. But the gaze of the camera and therefore us is very definitely on her bust, not legs, so I feel I can accuse ITV and producer Mammoth of going for the obvious gag about loose 21st dress codes via the bust, not the behind.

And it’s Bingley, not Darcey, who catches Amanda having a crafty fag. But I still don’t think she would have thrown it away if it really was her last smoke for 100 years and wouldn’t he have had something to say about her nicotine breath in the snog that ensued?

I guess I’m saying I’m suspending my disbelief for some things in this nicely shot drama (the idea that Amanda can step into 1813 via a swing door in her bathroom) but not for others which would have made the action a bit richer, a bit more layered.

Having said all that and having watched the whole thing twice now which I doubt many, if any, other viewers have bothered to do, it’s quite a nice piece of drama which ticks the costume drama box and, yes, I will be watching again next week because, like the rest of the country, I’m still a slave to the real-time ITV schedule unless they send me a preview DVD. Meanwhile the DVD I’m waiting for today is still stuck on the A303 somewhere, probably in torrential rain and heavy traffic.


Totally Lost in Austen

Quick post after a very poor night’s sleep (how the hell do people successfully get 3.5 year olds out of nappies at night without a. waking at 5am to a wet and bewildered child wandering around a dark house and b. washing sheets, duvet cover and duvet every frigging day?) to wonder again about the advisability of Lost in Austen.

From my limited attention to the show last night, I gathered the writer/producers (Guy Andrews of Poirot and Lewis fame and independent production company Mammoth Screen) haven’t thought very hard about how to handle the key ‘irony’ of the format, namely that a woman in modern dress with modern habits and manners is suddenly stalking around 19th century drawing rooms, thanks to a Narnia-like trap door in her bathroom. So when Mrs Bennett talks disdainfully about getting some more appropriate attire for Amanda (played by Jemima Rooper), we the viewers shouldn’t be gazing at her poitrine. Every lady had a heaving, heavily corseted bust in Jane Austen’s stories – just ask costume drama adapter par exellence Andrew Davies. No, the irony and the problem is Amanda’s jeans. No Regency lady would have worn trousers.

Ditto the gag with the smoking. It wasn’t surprising that our Darceyesque beau thought Amanda was “breathing fire” when he caught her having a crafty gasper outside the obligatory ball. What was utterly unconvincing was Amanda hurling her last cigarette away after just two puffs when she’s stuck in the 18th century and unlikely to get her paws on another packet for another 100 years or so.

Come on ITV and Mammoth – it’s not good enough simply to rip off the BBC’s Life on Mars time travel concept and exploit audiences’ insatiable appetite for costume drama and Jane Austen in particular. This programme should be better and less obvious if you want ABC1s to watch.


Things are getting better

Just a little late evening postlette to keep things moving and to say creating this website is one of the most daunting things I’ve ever done. Like opening up the bonnet of a revving car and putting your hand in where some fan-belty thing is spinning away and threatening to cut all your digits off. So far, I’ve only disappeared off the web once and, of course, noone even noticed.

But playing around with Themes and trying to get various buttons to appear on this site (PayPal anyone?) means I have precious little time to actually watch any TV. Tried to concentrate on ITV’s Lost in Austen tonight but was setting up a new email account at the same time so can’t really pronounce on the strange 21st century/costume drama mix.

Except to wonder, what’s the effing point of putting a modern-day woman in the midst of all those Regency goings on and reminding us, again, of the basic Pride & Prejudice plot. Oh, that’s the point – to rehearse again the basic Pride & Prejudice plot, which we all apparently love, but to give it a ‘modern’ twist. Bit poor. Give it another week.