An open letter to the BBC

(New period drama...if YOU could choose?)

Just found two separate articles reporting about the disappointing ratings for the much anticipated adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma" starring Romola Garai. Seems many of us had hoped that this would draw in a high number of viewers to encourage BBC to not turn its back on their traditon of producing period drama. However, I have to wonder if the mediocre response that this series seems to be having from fans, might be a tougher blow than expected for the future of the "bonnets". (The Independent and Daily Mail)

There are other factors of course, many tv channels are scrambling for audiences. The television landscape has altered significantly in the past few years including more channels and having to compete with the internet for viewers. (I know of more instances of those who are forgoing cable and solely watching online.)

MTA - New article in The Times Online on April 24, 2010 with BBC indicating shift toward Bronte-themed projects. More info here.

BUT I would just like to say to the 'powers that be' at the BBC, (and any other producers out there) why don't you take some time to listen to viewers and devoted fans of period drama to hear what we'd like to see? As much as I like Austen, I think I'm experiencing Austen-overload myself. It hasn't helped that so many others have sought to cash in on her popularity with countless spin-off books (one of which I am soooo tired of hearing discussed) and the overuse of the phrase, "It is a truth universally acknowledged ...fill in the blank!"

I've said it before but why cancel plans for less known dramas only to promise us yet another David Copperfield. Really?!! So 18 adaptations of Copperfield is not enough?

What about Georgette Heyer? I know of many who would delight in seeing one of her over 40 novels being played out on the small (or big) screen.

What about another one of Dickens' novels? One that we don't already know inside out! (Little Dorrit was wonderful!)

What about one of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels? (I'm a little biased on this one!)

What about ...(insert favourite author here)????

Thank you BBC for all the wonderful dramas that you've given us.
I think the fan base for period drama is stronger than ever.
Please don't take us for granted.

* * * * * *

Which author or book would you like to see adapted for film?

Here are some suggestions I've received already!
(Some of which I will have to look up since I haven't read these books that are obviously treasured! Thanks to the folks at C19, Livejournal, Tudorphiles and Facebook group for responding to this question!!)
[***ones with a star had more than one person suggest that book or author]

A.S.Byatt - Possession
Ann Radcliffe - Mysteries of Udolpho**
Anne Bronte - Agnes Grey
Anya Seton - Katherine, Avalon, ...
Arthur Miller - The Crucible**
Bram Stoker - Dracula
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities***, Hard Times, Pickwick Papers, Mystery of Edwin Drood...
Charlotte Bronte – Vilette*****, Shirley
Count of Monte Cristo
D. H. Lawrence - Sons and Lovers, Lady Chatterly's Lover
Daphne du Maurier - My Cousin Rachel, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn
Deanna Raybourne - Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary, Silent on the Moor
Diana Gabaldon - Outlander***
Dick Turpin - Highway Man
Elizabeth Gaskell - Sylvia's Lovers, Mary Barton****
Elizabeth George Speare - Witch of Blackbird Pond
Elizabeth von Amim - Enchanted April
Ellis Peters - Felse Family Mysteries
Emile Zola - The Ladies' Paradise
Fanny Burney**- Evelina, Cecilia...
Florence Barclay - The Rosary
G.A. Henty
Gene Stratton Porter - Girl of the Lumberlost
George Eliot
Georgette Heyer**** - Frederica, Sylvester, Grand Sophy, Venetia, Cotillion, Bath Tangle, Arabella...
Gwen Bristow - Celia Garth
Henry James*** - The Portrait of a Lady, Daisy Miller, The American, What Maisie Knew
Irene Nemirovsky - Suite Francaise, All Our Worldly Goods
James Hilton - Random Harvest
Jane Feather
Jean Webster - Daddy Long-legs
Jude Morgan - Indiscretion
J. M. Barrie - Peter Pan
Kate Ross - Julian Kestrel novels
Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace
Libba Bray - A Great and Terrible Beauty
Mary Hart Lovelace**** - Betsy-Tacy novels, Emily of Deep Valley
Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
Mary Stewart - Nine Coaches Waiting...
Naomi Novik
Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlett Letter, House of the Seven Gables
Noel Streatfield - Saplings, ...
Phillipa Gregory - Constant Princess, The White Queen...
R.M. Ballantyne
Robert Louis Stevenson - The Black Arrow**, Jekyll and Hyde
Robert Tressell - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Samuel Richardson - Sir Charles Grandison, Pamela...
Sharon Kay Penman - Sunne in Splendour, Welsh trilogy, Eleanor of Aquitane, War of the Roses
Sir Walter Scott - Waverley, Quentin Durward
Stephanie Laurens
Susanna Clarke
Thomas Hardy - A Pair of Blue Eyes, Trumpet Major, The Well-Beloved, Two on a Tower
Tracy Chevalier - Falling Angels, Virgin Blue
Victor Hugo - Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victoria Alexander
William Thackeray - Henry Esmond, The Rose and the Ring, Cazalets pt.2, Pendennis...
William Trevor - My House in Umbria
Winston Graham – Poldark

Also mentioned:
- French Revolution mini series that's not from a royalist/Marie Antoinette standpoint
- a proper adaptation of Austen's Mansfield Park
- Many have also said how they would like to see an unknown author's work brought to attention.


  1. Excellent. I agree 100% with everything you said.

    I hope someone at the BBC reads this. . .

  2. Here, here! We need to get twitter going on this. Got a hashmark you want to use?

    BTW, I want to see Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers adapted for starters.

  3. As the owner of a big David Copperfield site I'll have to shove myself into the minority and express my enthusiasm at the new adaptation, lol! Only 5 of the adaptations of DC are available to English-speaking audiences, one of which is highly inaccurate (1935), two of which are considered terrible versions (1969 and 2000), one that has horrid production values (1974), and then the 1999 BBC production which was just plain dull. If it hasn't yet been done right then we shouldn't balk at another attempt! :)

  4. I'd love to see Gaskell's Mary Barton, Dickens's Hard Times and A Tale of two Cities, Stevenson's The Black Arrow, and many others. I totally agree with you.

  5. I love hearing suggestions from others for authors or their novels which haven't been explored! There seems to be such a wealth of worthy books out there that seem to have been glossed over by producers so far.
    If another Copperfield adaptation was made, I WOULD be interested but it just seems that we keep seeing the same things every few years. As for the 1999 adaptation, I thought it was quite good! But I'm not a Dickens' expert...

  6. I agree completely. I would love to see something different, like a proper adaptation of George Eliot.

  7. I agree with you on the Elizabeth Gaskell point. Am biased on that one as well heh
    And Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels.
    What about Nathaniel Hawthorne?

  8. I would love to see an adaption of A Tail of Two Cities! I would also like Agnes Grey, Villette, Hard Times, Mansfield Park and The Black Arrow!

  9. I said this on your post on LiveJournal, but it's worth saying again:


    Someone make it!!!

  10. Any Sir Walter Scott book could be beautifully adapted for the screen. Such as Waverley and Quentin Durward!

  11. Amen about the constant glut of fanfic and fanfilms (er, I mean "sequels" and "Austen-inspired films"). I, for one, adore the new Emma, but I think it should serve as a well-earned finale to all things Austen (at least on the filmed and published front) for at least a decade.

  12. So few people know anything about R.M. Ballantine's books, but he has some wonderful stories with great characters that would make some really interesting films!

  13. Okay, Charleybrown, I understand, and now I want to play the game, too! ;) I think the BBC is missing some excellent opportunities in Nathaniel Hawthorne's works, and has it ever made a version of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (Hunchback)? It would be interesting to see them handle the characters as they really are in the book, with a more violent Quasimodo, more vapid Esmeralda, and more human Frollo.

    I also really really really want to see a version of Peter Pan! They gave us Barrie's life story back in the 70s but they still haven't adapted his most famous play and novel??

    (As for the 1999 DC, there wasn't anything terrible about it, but it was too short and was miscast in some of the roles, esp. adult David and Heep.)

  14. Are we talking about a BBC production or a production in general of Peter Pan - because I'm more than satisfied with the film version of 2003. Especially if the Beeb wanted to do it with a girl as Peter again.

  15. I'd love to see them do A Tale of Two Cities again - it's been a very long time since the James Wilby version. Still with Dickens, it would also be great to see a proper version of Edwin Drood (I've only seen a really terrible adaptation) - and I'm another one who would love to see Charlotte Bronte's Villette adapted, too! Judy

  16. @ ibmiller
    2003's Peter Pan was virtually *nothing* like either the novel or the play by Barrie - it was in many main aspects as different as the Disney version. I want the Beeb to treat this as they've treated The Wind in the Willows - book accurate, with children in all the main roles and a boy as Peter.

  17. You and I must have vastly different ideas of "nothing like the book." While I think there are several changes, I thought the 2003 Peter Pan captured both the tone, tragedy, and symbolism of the book and play - more the play than the book.

  18. @ibmiller
    Yes, we must. I don't consider the addition of unnecessary new characters, the change of a comedic cad to a serious child-seducing villain, the aging by years of the two main characters, and an American teenager as the British boy-who-would-never-grow-up as particularly accurate to the book or to the play. Not to mention they entirely botched the end and Barrie's intentions by making captain Hook fly, and Peter turn hot pink and spiral into the sky after a kiss.

    In my opinion (and I've been studying the book for 6 years now) this film just reduced the symbolism and layers in the originals to silliness. It's like comparing 1996's Emma to the book. I just feel the BBC could do a better job at Peter Pan than Hogan did in creating a film oriented toward kids.

  19. I will WATCH any period film and I mean ANY.

  20. Same here, Kate. :p

    Though I certainly wouldn't say no to a bit of Dickens/Gaskell/Bronte, I'm hoping the BBC will make more Hardy adaptations. "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" was downright stunning and wonderfully faithful to its source. Seeing as "The Mayor of Casterbridge" and "Far from the Madding Crowd" have been done /almost/ to perfection, my nominations would be "The Return of the Native", "Two on a Tower", and "A Pair of Blue Eyes". All three are absolutely beautiful stories that deserve decent adaptations.

  21. Thanks everyone for all your suggestions!!

    Kate, I love the way you said that!

  22. I would love, love, love to see Villette by Charlotte Bronte!!

  23. what about 'the monk' by Matthew Gregory Lewis???? ooooOoooo scary....

  24. Oh, I agree about the Monk - love that novel! The other day I read The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett and thought what a wonderful adaptation that would make. Which lead to me thinking about how I'd like new adaptations of Henry James and Edith Wharton - perfect companions to Downton Abbey. I'd also love to see Villette, Agnes Grey and Gaskell's Ruth adapted.

  25. Are you suggesting books that, as far as you know, have never been made into movies, or just ones that BBC has never attempted? Because I saw a few{Frankenstein, Dracula, Jamaica Inn, and the Count of Monte Cristo, to name a few} that have been made into movies. Granted they are all old{with the exception of Dracula, I saw a remake of that just a few years ago} and The count of monte Cristo was frankly a waste of film{why must everyone in the movie business ruin a perfectly good story when they have one?!}
    In fact, Jamaica Inn was originally made by one of my personal favorites, Alfred Hitchcock in the mid 1930's, only to re-make it a few years later.{rather unheard of, re-making your own movie, but he did it twice!}

    However,I do agree one hundred percent on your choice of suggestions{well, all the ones I've heard of, which is most of them}

    I hope they take some of your suggestions, the world needs more good television.

  26. marvelousme,
    My beef with the BBC is that they seem to keep producing remakes of the SAME novels by the same few authors instead of adapting other worthwhile works.

  27. What about some plays? Sheridan's The Rivals is great fun and Ben Jonson's Volpone is nicely manipulative...

  28. I think that in the right hands some of Victoria Holts books could be nicely adapted.

  29. I agree with with your suggestions re: Georgette Heyer's books.
    I would add " The Black Sheep" - very funny and very intelligent, one of my favorites...
    I would also like to add Marion Chesney's wonderful, light, funny series of books ( Traveling Matchmaker series, Daughters of Mannerling, Poor Relation or House for Season series). Another forgotten author of pleasant Regency novels that I would like to see adapted is Clare Darcy.



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