OA: We want some more classics

The bold adaptations of 19th century novels by British authors Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens for the Masterpiece Classic series on PBS are anything but stuffy and old.

The miniseries’ actors have been in popular movies such as “Harry Potter,” “Love Actually,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “Frost/Nixon” and “W.”

And the novels’ themes, such as love and passion, hardships and struggle, are still relatable to a modern audience, said Kristen Hague, assistant professor of English at Mesa State College.

Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” and Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” “David Copperfield,” “Little Dorrit” and “The Old Curiosity Shop,” air on Rocky Mountain PBS digital channel 18 on select Sundays from January to May.

The host of Masterpiece Classic 2009 is actress Laura Linney. A presentation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of D’Urbervilles” already has aired.

Most of the films run in multi-part segments on consecutive Sundays at 9 p.m., much like last year’s Masterpiece Classic presentation of “The Complete Jane Austen.”

In fact, the film adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” by Austen, a late 18th century author, will be shown between the Bronte and Dickens films.

Hague’s background is in 18th and 19th century British literature, which was the richest period for fiction, and the novel was still a very new thing, she said.

Dickens built a fan base for his novels by publishing them in monthly installments in magazines.

“He was the first author that people went crazy about,” Hague said.

He wrote about people outside the elite upper class, and he was brutally honest about what their lives were like, she said.

Dickens’ work is wonderful because his plots are never simple. “There’s loss and qualifications and things along the way that make it a complex story,” Hague said.

Watching film adaptations of classic literature is a good way to remember books you might have read years ago or catch up on ones you haven’t gotten to yet, she said.

There’s still time to read some of the novels before the film adaptations air, too.


•  “Wuthering Heights” (2.5-hour miniseries) The second episode airs Sunday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m.
This new adaptation stars newcomer Charlotte Riley as Cathy, the sister to Heathcliff, adopted by Cathy’s family as a boy and played by British actor Tom Hardy. It’s a turbulent love story that crosses generations.
What’s different about this version, according to PBS, is the focus on the intertwined fates of the generation following Heathcliff and Cathy.
Viewers can catch up on the first episode, which aired Jan. 18, at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/. It can be seen online through Feb. 1.

•  “Sense and Sensibility” (Two 90–minute episodes) Airs on Sundays, Feb. 1 and 8, at 9 p.m.
Elinor Dashwood is sensible, while her sister, Marianne, is impulsive, making their responses to romance and good and bad fortune very different. This is an encore presentation of the film, which stars Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne.


•  “Oliver Twist” (3-hour miniseries) Airs on Sundays, Feb. 15 and 22, at 9 p.m.
The modern retelling of the adventures of Oliver, a little orphan boy, is what makes this adaptation of “Oliver Twist” “bold,” and “sleek,” according to reviews in PBS news materials.
Oliver is sent to a workhouse and forced into servitude, eventually driven to flee to London where he falls in with a gang of boy-thieves.

•  “David Copperfield”
(3-hour miniseries) Airs on Sundays, March 15 and 22, at 9 p.m.
This is an encore presentation of the “David Copperfield” starring a 10-year-old Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) in his first film role. Other stars include Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen and Bob Hoskins.
“David Copperfield” is the tale of a boy’s unhappy childhood to his success as a novelist and the people and families he meets along the way. Dickens called the somewhat autobiographical novel a “favorite child.”

•  “Little Dorrit”
(8-hour miniseries) Airs Sundays, March 29 through April 26, at 9 p.m.
Chronic debt and financial collapse are two subjects that hit a little close to home and are addressed in this story. This miniseries is one of Dickens’ great stories of mystery and intrigue. Variety magazine called it “totally absorbing, a master class in period literary drama.”

•  “The Old Curiosity Shop”
(90-minute single episode) Airs Sunday, May 3, at 9 p.m.
Hague could not recall coming across any film adaptations of “The Old Curiosity Shop” before this.
PBS calls it one of Dickens’ most heartrending tales. The plot follows the saga of Little Nell, Grandfather and their tormentor, Daniel Quilp, played by Toby Jones (Frost/Nixon).


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