CHRISTOPHER STEVENS Discusses Last Night’s TV: This Awful Dickens Adaptation Gets More Ridiculous Every Week
Pip deals drugs in the port. His supplier Miss Havisham, when she and Estella are not mindlessly stoned at Satis House, hires prostitutes for his sex education.
If you thought the first part of Great Expectations (BBC1) was terrible, the second episode was much worse. Every part of this edit is unbelievably bad, but most of all it brutally exposes Steven Knight’s limitations as a storyteller.
The pace is terrible, with long boring parts interrupted by overwrought moments. Many of the cast are unable to make 19th century dialogue sound natural – the worst culprits being Pip and Estella (Fionn Whitehead and Shalom Brune-Franklin), who speak like petulant schoolchildren assigned to read in class.
Computer-generated backgrounds are two-dimensional, and indoor scenes are so dimly lit that the characters are barely visible. And there’s a relentless emphasis on the empire’s rogueness, including the pretense that British ships carried slaves from Africa to the Americas long after the trade was banned.
This is all just what we’ve come to expect from BBC costume dramas. What breaks it beyond repair is Knight’s inability to create conflict between characters without resorting to sex, drugs or violence.
If you thought the first part of Great Expectations (BBC1) was terrible, the second episode was much worse. Pictured: Pip, right, and Estella, left (Fionn Whitehead and Shalom Brune-Franklin)
In his gangster thriller Peaky Blinders, this was disguised by the storylines. But Knight looks like a rock guitarist who only knows three chords.
Twang! Village headman Mr. Pumblechook (Matt Berry) exposed his bare buttocks to be spanked by Mrs. Joe’s riding crop. “Summon the beast in me,” she muttered, before the camera, like a soft porn film, cut away to her bare-chested blacksmith husband, wielding his hammer in the blacksmith shop.
Sound! A judge tried to blow his own brains out with a gun when blackmail attorney Jaggers (Ashley Thomas) threatened to brand him as gay.
Kerrang! Miss Havisham (Olivia Colman) handed Pip a bag of opium and ordered him to sell it to sailors, before forcing him to kiss her.
Bad language splattered in every scene. When Pip fought Herbert Pocket in the yard, he spat the F-word at him, while Mrs. Joe (Hayley Squires) called him an “ungrateful little bastard.”
The Left’s aversion to the upper classes was pathetic: Miss Havisham boasted that her fortune was built on “indigo and slaves,” and told Pip he would never be presentable in society until he learned to exploit other people: “Those below are for using.’
Most obscenely ridiculous of all was her statement that a gentleman should be ‘skilled at riding, dancing, boxing and sex’ – before shoving him into bed with the village slut.
By the end of the hour, I felt very much like literary editor Susan (Lesley Manville) in Magpie Murders (BBC1) pouring herself a pint of gin and tonic at the end of a grueling day and then taking a shower. and had another jug.
Susan (played by Lesley Manville) and Atticus Pund (played by Tim McMullan) in Magpie Murders (BBC1)
This slow-burning, artfully complex mystery has been available on Britbox for over a year now, but it’s been well worth the wait. Adapted from his own novel by the brilliant Anthony Horowitz, creator of Foyle’s War, it tells two parallel stories.
One is of a bad-tempered novelist (Conleth Hill) who is surrounded by people with good reason to want him dead. The other is his latest novel, filled with those same real characters.
Tim McMullan plays the fictional detective from the book, Atticus Pund, while Daniel Mays is an unimaginative detective who likes easy solutions…and forces Susan to do some detective work herself. Be patient as the first episode unfolds and you’ll be hooked in no time.