I have to say that I expected to hate this show. I had read that Andrew Davies took the entirety of Austen’s unfinished novel and smashed it into the first ten minutes of the series. He was telling the truth–that is exactly what he did–but still I enjoyed the first episode, despite what all of the British viewers thought about it. Maybe episodes 2+ will change my mind. Anywho, here’s what I observed and thought about the first episode:
- Davies clearly gets that Sanditon is Charlotte’s story. That is likely where Austen would have gone with the tale, even though she thought about calling it The Brothers. (Her family decided to call it Sanditon based on some conversations about the story.) Was Austen turning a corner and thinking about focusing on the Parkers, rather than sisters or female friends as she had done before? We’ll never know, but certainly there is plenty of evidence in the unfinished tale to support Charlotte’s perspective.
- Davies clearly embellished Austen’s story to “sex it up”–I put quotations here to scare quote it, but I’m actually paraphrasing something he said in an interview. So, that hand job scene? Um, yeah, no, that’s not Austen. Seriously did you think so? That was an awkward scene, and the two conversations about it were equally awkward. I’m not saying this to comment on adding sex to a Regency era novel. I’m saying that the way it was done felt a little weird. I get that it was voyeuristic and supposed to comment somehow on the illicit sexuality shrouded in Austen’s time and novels. Still….I felt really bad for Clara Brereton. She’s nothing like Austen’s version, IMO.
- The scene with nudity at the beach? Not in the novel either (surprise surprise), but it works in the series. I thought it was funny and cute. I’m always on board for male nudity to offset how much female nudity we find on screen!
- Women in bathing machines! How futuristic, right?! Actually, no. That’s referred to in Austen’s novel and there are plenty of visuals from Austen’s time to support that activity. Did men bath in the nude? I’m not sure about that.
- The weird brother-sister incestual thing between the Denhams! Whoa, I wasn’t prepared for that. Like, what?! Why?! It was so Crimson Peak. I’m interested to see where that goes.
- All in all, the casting is superb, and that’s probably the best thing so far. I love, love, love the casting for Tom Parker and Lady D. That said, the show missed the mark with its casting of Miss Lambe. I don’t find her to be the “sickly,” “half-mulatto” heiress in Austen’s novel, but oh well. Also, what’s this intrigue between Miss Georgiana Lambe–who doesn’t get a first name in Austen’s writing–and Sidney.
- Finally, there’s Sidney. What is the deal? He wasn’t such a Rochester/Lord Byron/Heathcliff in Austen’s text, but he fits the bill I guess of being kind of Darcy-like, and I expect him to soften, as does Darcy. That’s the formula, right?
In the end, I’m not watching this for Austen. I’m watching a periodesque show on Masterpiece and seeing where it goes. This is an Austen-inspired show, and that’s great! I’m looking forward to writing my next blog. Hope you’ll read it!