December 17th, 2005

Notes On Bleak House

OK, so I'm a convert. It was thrilling TV.

The gimmick was they were doing it as a soap. Only they weren't. Soaps go on forever and this was a mere 7 1/2 hours. Lots of charming minor characters had to be cut. Pity.

There wasn't any poetry (yes, Dickens is a poet) but the plot was nicely sharpened up. It was if the story had been rewritten by Dickens' good mate Wilkie Collins.

I was sorry about Skimpole. He's one of Dickens' greatest creations. A bastard, certainly, but a fantastically charming bastard and not the slimy piece of goods they reduced him too here. It was a bit like playing Falstaff as a sad old boozer.

The not very interesting central characters- Esther, Jarndyce, Rick, Ada and the noble doctor were brought to life by some first-rate acting. We cared about them. Here, as in the adjustments to the plot, the original was improved upon.

I remember Pauline Collins as a soubrette. Now she's playing old lady roles. Lawks-a-mercy!

Alun Armstrong was never going to be a star. He's just too ugly. But he has grown into his looks. His turn as Inspector Bucket was mesmerizing.

And who'd have thought that Gillian Anderson had it in her to play an English aristocrat? Her Lady Dedlock proved she's not just a star- she's a great actor. And I mean right up there with the Redgraves and the Riggs and the Denches. That great.

Next time they tackle a big Dickens (let it be Our Mutual Friend) maybe they'll allow themselves double the time. Triple the time. Quadruple the time. We can take it.