Nothing Under The Bonnet
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:
Jack The Ripper
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
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.