Monday, April 21, 2008

Masterpiece Classics
to air Gaskell's Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters was adapted into a wonderful BBC/PBS production starring Justine Waddell. Gaskell’s North and South (please don’t confuse it with the U.S. Patrick Swayze Civil War era miniseries) was a most gorgeous adaptation, which catapulted star Richard Armitage into near-Darcy status.

There’s little question her work, albeit about “everyday” life of the time, is infinitely relevant to contemporary society and the ideal source material for television.

Gaskell was certainly a more obscure Victorian writer than some of her peers, but by adapting her Wives and Daughters a new audience was introduced to Gaskell’s observant, wry and engaging books, which had previously been languishing on many a library bookshelf.

The latest of Gaskell’s books to be turned into TV fare is her Cranford. The three-part miniseries’ producer is Sue Birtwistle whose name some may recognize as the producer of the watershed 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice.

While Cranford does share some elements as in Wives and Daughters – her world is concerned with funny old ladies and nice young men – (here in a rural Cheshire town in the mid-19th Century), Cranford may wrongly be perceived as too ordinary and staid, and perhaps not "romantic" enough, but it is a winning portrait (we were lucky enough to buy and view a U.K. DVD).

May 4, 11 and 18, 2008
In 1842, Cranford is a village on the brink of change, where some find romance and opportunity, and others fear the breakdown of social order. Cast includes Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton.

Masterpiece Classics, 9 p.m. PBS.

Image: Lisa Dillon, Eileen Atkens, Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton star in Cranford