Starting this evening at 9 EST and over the next four months, PBS will broadcast The Complete Jane Austen. The series runs through April 6, and will include adaptations of all of Austen’s novels, plus Miss Austen Regrets (Feb. 6), a film biography detailing the never-married author’s "lost loves."
The Complete Jane Austen will consist of new adaptations of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, plus previously produced versions of Emma (featuring Kate Beckinsale) and Pride and Prejudice (starring Colin Firth).
Both of the latter were quite good, and I intend to watch them this time around as well.
The four new adaptations were scripted by Andrew Davies, whose adaptation of Bleak House for last year’s Masterpiece Theater season was quite good.
The Complete Jane Austen is a Masterpiece Theater presentation. The long-running PBS series has been divided into three annual "seasons." Adaptations of older works will appear in the winter and spring under the name of Masterpiece Classic. That will be followed in the summer by Masterpiece Mystery and in the fall by Masterpiece Contemporary.
Masterpiece Classic will be hosted by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Bleak House). Hosts for the other series will be announced later.
Here’s the schedule for Masterpiece Classics‘ The Complete Jane Austen, with episode descriptions courtesy of PBS:
“Persuasion” (1/13, 9-10:30) Sally Hawkins (Little Britain) appears as Anne Elliot, destined for spinsterhood at age 27 after being persuaded eight years earlier to refuse the proposal of dashing Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones, “Casanova”). Then chance brings them together again. While her better days are past, his are definitely ahead, as he’s now rich and free to play the field among eligible young beauties. Anthony Head (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) co-stars as Anne’s spendthrift father. Adapted by Simon Burke. Directed by Adrian Shergold. Executive producer, Murray Ferguson. Executive producer for WGBH, Rebecca Eaton. Produced by David Snodin. A Clerkenwell Films production for ITV in association with WGBH/Boston.
• “Northanger Abbey” (1/20, 9-10:30) In Austen’s gentle parody of gothic fiction, Felicity Jones (Meadowlands) plays romance-addict Catherine Morland. Invited to a medieval country house that appeals to her most lurid fantasies, she forms a close friendship with the younger son on the estate, Henry Tilney (JJ Feild, “The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton”), but their budding romance is mysteriously cut short. Adapted by Andrew Davies. Directed by Jon Jones. Executive producers, Andy Harries, Charles Elton. Executive producer for WGBH, Rebecca Eaton. Produced by Keith Thompson. A co-production of Granada and WGBH/Boston.
• “Mansfield Park” (1/27, 9-10:30) Austen’s most complex plot stars Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “The Ruby in the Smoke”) as Fanny Price, who goes to live with prosperous relatives at Mansfield Park. Fanny navigates a labyrinth of intrigues and affairs among the occupants of the house, while her cousin Edmund Bertram (Blake Ritson, “Inspector Lynley Mysteries”) remains her stalwart confidant. Also starring Jemma Redgrave (“Bramwell”) as Fanny’s observant aunt. Adapted by Maggie Wadey. Directed by Iain B. MacDonald. Executive producers, George Faber, Charles Pattinson. Executive producer for WGBH, Rebecca Eaton. Produced by Suzan Harrison. A co-production of Company Productions and WGBH/Boston.
• “Miss Austen Regrets” (2/3, 9-10:30) If nothing else, Jane Austen wrote from personal experience. Courtship she knew well; only the last act eluded her. This film biography dramatizes Austen’s lost loves: Harris Bigg, whose proposal she accepted and then rejected; Edward Brydges, whom she also refused; the tongue-tied vicar she teased mercilessly; and the young surgeon who arrived on the scene too late to steal her heart. Starring Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense), Greta Scacchi (The Player) and Hugh Bonneville (Notting Hill). Written by Gwyneth Hughes. Directed by Jeremy Lovering. Executive producer, Laura Mackie. Executive producer for WGBH, Rebecca Eaton. Produced by Anne Pivcevic. A BBC and WGBH/Boston co-production.
• “Pride and Prejudice” (2/10-2/24, 9-11) Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary) is Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle (The Coast of Utopia) is Elizabeth Bennet in the defini¬tive adaptation of the most-loved of all Austen novels. With five daughters, no sons and an entailed estate, the elder Bennets are in dire straits as they try to arrange advantageous marriages. Wedding bells ring three times, but the path to true love is tortuous indeed. Adapted by Andrew Davies. Directed by Simon Langton. Executive producer, Michael Wearing. Produced by Sue Birtwistle. A production of BBC Television and BBC Worldwide Americas, Inc. in association with A&E Television Networks. The MASTERPIECE THEATRE broadcast of “Pride and Prejudice” is the first in the U.S. other than on A&E Television Networks.
• “Emma” (3/23, 9-11) The New York Times praised this production as “smart and spirited … understated and sly.” Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator) stars in the title role as the tireless matchmaker who professes no interest in matrimony for herself, only for her orphaned protégée, Harriet Smith (Samantha Morton, Longford). Still, Emma does feel a certain twinge for Frank Churchill (Raymond Coulthard, “He Knew He Was Right”) and a brotherly regard for Mr. Knightley (Mark Strong, “Prime Suspect 6”). Adapted by Andrew Davies. Directed by Diarmuid Lawrence. Executive producers, Delia Fine, Simon Lewis. Produced by Sue Birtwistle. Produced by United Film and Television Productions in association with Chestermead Ltd and A&E Networks. Originally broadcast in February 1997.
• “Sense and Sensibility” (3/30 and 4/6, 9-10:30) Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) plays levelheaded Elinor Dashwood and Charity Wakefield (“Jane Eyre”) her impulsive sister Marianne. Though poor, they attract a trio of very promising gentlemen: soon-to-be wealthy Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens, The Line of Beauty), heroic Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey, State of Play) and Byronic John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper, The History Boys). Adapted by Andrew Davies. Directed by John Alexander. Produced by Anne Pivcevic. Executive producer for WGBH, Rebecca Eaton. A BBC and WGBH/Boston co-production.