Nothing Under The Bonnet

Observatory, Reading & Writing, The Arts

The BBC’s viewing figures for a lavish new production of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ managed a pathetic 3.5 million, despite high quality production values and a cast that includes my old pal the ever-excellent Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightly.
Of course this is the four millionth Austen production turned out in the last five years while other much more interesting period novels are passed over for adaptation. There really should be a decade-long TV moratorium on the following old warhorses:
Robin Hood
Sherlock Holmes
Jack The Ripper
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Oscar Wilde
Jane Austen
Charles Dickens
Anything With Vampires
What about Wilkie Collins? Evelyn Waugh (other than ‘Brideshead’)? Graham Greene? E M Delafield? The problem is one of brand recognition. Timid TV companies with shrinking audiences want to give their viewers something they already know about, but I honestly believe they underestimate the public. People will happily adopt something new if it’s properly produced. When the BBC took a chance on Monty Python (‘Oh all right but you can only have 13 shows’ is the line famous acceptance quoted to Michael Palin) they were sowing the seeds for thirty years of financial reward. The same thing happened with ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ – it went from an experiment to a heritage product.
Most of the best writers I know are currently out of work or unemployed. They have zillions of ideas but no sales outlets. It hasn’t always been like this – but for now it looks like Jane Austen will continue to queue-jump them.

8 comments on “Nothing Under The Bonnet”

  1. David Read says:

    I was working backwards… having not visted the site for a week or so.. so a ranted on you previous topic…

    Opinion: Why Is An Idea Worth Less Than A Brand?

    There are of course the endless Agatha Christie revisions (primarily Marple) and I presume Merlin is Robin Hood with magic thrown in?

    I agree about Wilkie Collins, and I would have thought that should be an attractive adaptation. Can any other Le Carre’s be adapted, or in the same vein Brian Freemantle.

    Also why not the series that had a new story each week, do we have to follow the same characters? We seem obsessed with series these days always featuring the same characters and situaltion which is a shame.

    That way the wealth of shorts stories could be mined..

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I just heard an interview with MS Niffeneger – she of The Time Traveler’s Wife – and she informed us that the movie rights for her book were sold before the book was published. If movie makers can take a chance/recognize an opportunity like that why can’t tv moguls?
    The Twilight Zone was different every week. If the first half dozen were of exceptionally good quality – and that shouldn’t be difficult – then any genre would work, although horror/suspense would probably be the quickest to catch on.

  3. I.A.M. says:

    Part of the problem of TV Production (which one can speak about without the Administrator’s fear of offending any former/current colleagues) is that there’s a sort of Bourgeois mind set of ‘what the Proletariat of Viewers want/need to watch is “more of the same”’ so we get that. If you’ve not seen enough Pride & Prejudice that you’re ready to punch the next person wearing a bonnet, or vicar in a quaint round hat, then that’s fine.

    However, when the concept of “new” and/or “different” is suggested to anyone with the power to sign a cheque, the terror begins in their heart. Those words mean “change” which leads to “brave” which then arrives at “risk”. When trying to make money, “risk” is never a good word. “Safe” is something one wants to use when describing results, as it’s a business that produces TV and Movies.

    So… suggest “Horror/Suspense” and the gamble implied may as well have “Lottery Win” and “Roulette” attached to it, and don’t bother to sit down in the lobby when dropping off your proposal; just leave it on the desk and there’s the door.

    Meanwhile the “different” is reduced to the territory peopled those who can best take a risk: those of us who have nothing left to lose.

  4. Steve says:

    Over here there’s talk of reviving “Dallas”, for God’s sake…..Larry Hagman must be 110 by now. Apparently new ideas are either scarce, bad, or non-existent.

  5. Billy Lloyd says:

    Looks like this “Robin Hood” movie would be a great movie to watch just like the movie about King Arthur.–`

  6.  Wood Shelf says:

    i think i like the comedy version of the Robin Movie starring Cary Elwis”`;

  7. Daniel Davis says:

    Robin Hood movie is quite good, a bit more historically accurate in my opinion.”

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