With three episodes now on PBS, BBC’s new mini-series finishing Jane Austen’s Sanditon has officially made its debut in the United States and the result has been…explosive.
For those of you who do not belong to half a dozen Facebook pages devoted to Jane Austen, the story goes something like this: Jane Austen began working on the novel in 1817, wrote 11 chapters, and then died. Though family members hinted at its existence, the actual text wasn’t released to the general public till 1925. If Wikipedia is to be believed, at least 9 different authors have since “finished” the story, including the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. (SO THAT IS WHAT THAT YOUTUBE SERIES WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT.)
Enter BBC. Not only do they decide to make a mini-series finishing Sanditon, they hire screenwriter Andrew Davies who is most famous (at least in the Austen world) for the BBC Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth. (Aka, lake-jumping-wet-shirt Mr. Darcy.)
Fans are ecstatic. We’re getting more Jane Austen, we’re getting new Jane Austen, we’re getting a beloved Jane Austen adapter. What could go wrong? Well…
Rumors begin circulating about certain liberties being taken with the plot. Andrew Davies says he wants to connect with modern viewers and tackle social issues. The appearance of a black heiress (actually in Austen’s original manuscript) got people excited about more representation. But then there is also hints of nudity and sex and the Austen community went….wait, what?!
It airs in England in 2019. And England revolts. I’m sure some fans enjoyed it but those of us on the other side of the pond were told not to get our hopes up. And then there was the ending after 8 episodes which (no spoilers) did not thrill people. Andrew Davies says a second season will likely depend on how America reacts to it.
It released in the United States via PBS roughly two weeks ago. Yesterday we got episode 3.
I don’t know what official pollsters are finding but here is what the posts on the Jane Austen groups I belong to look like:
View 1: BBC’s Sanditon is the BEST THING EVER MADE. Jane would love it. There has never been anything so glorious since Collin Firth’s lake scene in Pride and Prejudice. Lovely to get some new stories.
View 2: BBC’s Sanditon is the WORST THING EVER MADE. Jane Austen is turning in her grave. How DARE they add nudity to Austen? THE SHADES OF PEMBERLY HAVE BEEN POLLUTED.
View 3: Who cares?! We get more hot Austen men!
And then there are all the poor moderators begging people to keep the noise down and agree to disagree because up until this point the greatest controversy facing Janeites has been whether Collin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen makes a better Mr. Darcy and so the moderators are just not equipped for this level mass hysteria.
I’ve tried to keep an open mind and keep my expectations low going into Sanditon. Obviously, there are still 5 episodes to go so I will post “final thoughts” once I’ve seen them all. I was unimpressed with the first two episodes. I do think the third one was better.
While I lean toward the negative views about the series, I do understand why some people enjoy it. Jane Austen would probably roll in her grave with all the nudity, politics, and implied incest now permeating her story. At the same time, I love anything to do with the Regency era and even a bad rendition is in some ways better than no rendition.
The only view I entirely do not agree with is the third one lauding the new Austen hero, because the tall, dark, and brooding Mr. Parker is a complete ass. Bethany and I have spent most of the show so far baffled by his horrible behavior and calling him rude names. Nothing about him charms. He is the anti-Mr. Tilney. If his character doesn’t shape up soon, I don’t know how this story redeems itself.
So, have you seen Sanditon? What are your thoughts? The first few episodes are available on PBS for 6 more days so do check them out: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/shows/sanditon/episodes/
While there, check out Howard’s End. It stars Matthew Macfadyen and Bethany and I are enjoying it way more than Sanditon. We suspect his character might prove villainous, but since we love him as Mr. Darcy, we’re hardcore shipping him with one of the heroines. (And I know it came out in 2017 so NO SPOILERS if you have already seen it or read the book.)