Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What the Dickens?

I wasn't sure that I was ready for more costume drama while the wonderful Cranford is still fresh in my mind. I wish I had followed my instinct and avoided the BBC's production of Oliver Twist last night. I've always considered this to be the weakest, most implausible of Dickens' works but it deserved better treatment than this soaped-up, dumbed-down version by scriptwriter Sharon Phelps.

Over on 60goingon16, D lists the reasons that make this an adaptation unworthy of the BBC. That said, the Beeb does employ Sharon Phelps to write scripts for Eastenders, perhaps therein lies the problem: the literary classes have had their annual treat, now the 'drunken punch-up down the pub' crowd must be entertained. I think I'll give tonight's episode a miss, I'd hate to find Nancy working behind the bar of the Queen Vic.


  1. So glad I'm not alone M! You're right about "the 'drunken punch-up down the pub' crowd must be entertained" thinking behind this. The irony is that they are the very people who are not going to stay home to watch Oliver Twist or even to watch it at the pub (in the unlikely event of it being shown on the pub telly, that is). It was the same thinking that inspired the BBC's drive to allocate more resources to the sort of programmes that would attract young - especially male - viewers. Why? Young people are, statistically, the group least likely to watch television.

    One of today's commenters on Guardian Unlimited's TV review page made an interesting point. They reckoned that Oliver Twist was originally going to be the centrepiece of the BBC's Christmas TV schedules (ie Christmas Day/Boxing Day) but when the Beeb's powers that be saw how dreadful it was, they switched the first episode to the dead mid-week, mid-evening zone.

    I read somewhere that it had attracted 8 million viewers. Really? And will they stay the course?

  2. Well, D, here's one of the 8 million who won't be returning!

    Do you think the BBC employs advisors on target audiences? If so, I suspect it is the same firm that told M&S to stop catering for middle-aged, middle-class England and to concentrate on the bright young things who wouldn't be seen dead crossing their threshold. All those racks of unwanted size 8 fashions in the sales when the tills might have been ringing merrily if they had kept their traditional customers happy.

    I'm sorry that Timothy Spall is associated with this awful production. I hope there is something in the pipeline to redeem his reputation.

  3. I didn't think Oliver was that bad, or indeed that Cranford was that good, though it was well made.

    My problems with Cranford were two:

    1) there was no overall story arc - it was just one damn thing happening after another.
    2) Anna didn't make the cut.

  4. Brit, you obviously haven't read 'Cranford' or the other books incorporated into the adaptation or you would know that the people are the story. I thought the revelation of each character was gripping and very true to Mrs Gaskell.
    I'm sorry that Anna didn't make it, too. I'm hoping there will be more on the DVD!

    The quality of the 'Oliver Twist' production can be discussed over Christmas pudding!


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