Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Winter Season of Masterpiece Theater Classic

I caught the promos for the upcoming offerings for Masterpiece Classic last night during 'Waiting For God.' I was disappointed in it even more than I was in my January 4th blog post concerning the upcoming season.

I am not so much disappointed in the 'Celebration of Dickens,' taking place from February-May. With the exception of 'David Copperfield,' (a version that has future 'Harry Potter' stars Maggie Smith and Daniel Radcliffe-a clear bit of shameless tie-in with the 'Half Blood Prince' movie coming out this year) and 'Oliver Twist,' I am pleased that they are airing adaptations of stories by Dickens that aren't as read nowadays as they might have been in the past. An example being the 'Old Curiousity Shop,' which caused a sensation in its day not unlike the 2007 midnight release of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.' In those days, Dickens published his tales in periodicals in monthly installments and ravenous readers had to be patient as each chapter unfolded at what we would consider now to be a slow and maddening pace. The oft-told story concerning 'Old Curiosity Shop,' is of people rushing to the docks in America as the periodicals were being delivered and asking if 'Little Nell was dead.'

Instead of the umpteeth adaptations of 'Oliver Twist' and 'David Copperfield,' I feel they should have included in their place both 'Bleak House,' (a Dickens adaptation that resuscitated the Masterpiece series recently) and the docudrama that produced in 2002 based on Peter Ackroyd's biography called simply 'Dickens.' Not only was the latter a well done insight into the art and the life of its subject, it also included clips from the film and tv adaptations of his novels, which were used here to also shed some light on certain aspects of his life.

I am disappointed that the upcoming Masterpiece Classic offerings include yet another adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights' and yet another adaptation of 'Sense and Sensibility.' Admittedly, the latter was a part of last year's well received celebration of Jane Austen (known as The Complete Jane Austen), which also resuscitated the Masterpiece franchise in 2008 and so I understand wanting to go with a winner. However, I don't understand the need to air yet another adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights.' I cannot imagine that there were not other adaptations that could have been commissioned or that exist out there that PBS could not use for this series that would not be 'more of the same.' Per the PBS site, they work with "producing partners in the UK" to develop content for these "seasons."
Great Britain is a place of quite a bit of diversity and it seems to me that one way to keep Masterpiece "accessible" and exciting would be not to again, "show more of the same."

There are clearly no stories about 'Hong Kong' between 1912-1997 or of India in the 1840s or of the British colonies in Africa where the protagonist is not Caucasian because:

A) It would mean acknowledging the imperialism of UK's past and
B) it is still a truism that many people will not put themselves in the shoes of someone whose culture is so foreign to them or that they cannot relate to or so it is believed.

I expect I will watch 'Little Dorrit.' According to Wikipedia, the actor that potrayed Charles Dickens in the 2002 docudrama 'Dickens' (Anton Lesser), will be in this version of 'Little Dorrit.' He was very good in the former and as an avid Dickens fan, I expect he will be as good in the latter. It is something to look forward to I suppose.

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