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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



First thing's first, but not necessarily in that order.

If there be a kind soul out there what might be willing to slip me an illicit copy of Aaron Sorkin's pilot script for Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip, I'd be indebted to ye. What exactly that might be worth is a whole other thing.

So I grabbed the first episode of BBC's new version of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. This is what Gillian Anderson has been up to lately, so it's already got points with me. She very much was (and continues to be), as one British interviewer put it (though stealing from Frank Muir), the "thinking man's crumpet."

What makes this different from some of the stodgier adaptations of classic English Literature is that, despite it being a period piece, the feel is very modern. The director has effectively established the visual language he'll be using in just the first three minutes or so. It has elements of the pseudo-documentary style as seen on such recent fare as The West Wing (campaign road episodes) and Battlestar Galactica. In the first few seconds there's a rack focus that says this ain't yer daddy's Masterpiece Theatre. Also some little visual tricks like high-speed zooms and jump cuts. Most of the show is fairly normal Steadicam, not too gimmicky or overly shaky. Just not stuff you usually get from this sort of thing.

Andrew Davies wrote this adaptation. He also adapted the delightfully devious House of Cards series some while back. He takes on Dickens' skewering of the arcane British legal system and gives the dialogue a realistic-feeling charge where many other historical dramas may be inclined to go all flowery.

Bleak House will run fifteen episodes. I've learned that Region 1 DVD's are in the near future so I'll catch up with it at that time.

Right. They can get Bleak House out in short order, but where's the hell's the new Doctor Who series on American shores, eh? I'll be getting the Canadian Region 1 release, that's for damn sure. Health care system and Doctor Who. Sounds like good enough reason to migrate.

I would like to, someday, adapt Dickens' greatest and most overlooked work, Strumpet Yard, into a television mini-series. A feature film wouldn't do it justice. It was written to be serialized in Smatterly's Stories for Guttersnipes in 1833-34 and is perfect for twelve one-hour episodes. And Mister Farquhar is too complex a character to be given short shrift in anything less.

It amazes me that of the BBC, Merchant-Ivory, one has made this.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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