Skip to main content

"Bleak House" is far from, er, bleak

Okay. I will admit it: I am a sucker for TV costume dramas... especially when they are well-made, produced by the BBC, and adapted into multiple hours. I've stared mesmerized for hours at the fantastic 6-hour Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle opus Pride and Prejudice, the twisty and addictive Our Mutual Friend, and the thrilling adaptation of Dickens confidante Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, among others.

And with the latest addition to the oeuvre, the BBC's brilliant adaptation of Charles Dickens' multi-layered novel, Bleak House, the BBC has outdone itself in every aspect. Adapted with skill by screenwriter Andrew Davies, Bleak House aired in the UK last year to critical and commercial acclaim. Structured as a nighttime soap (sort of like EastEnders with street urchins and Chancery suits), the BBC aired the series as 15 half-hour installments twice a week, keeping the serialized aspect of Dickens' original novel.

Fortunately, when Bleak House arrived across the Atlantic, PBS realized that the drama addicts such as myself couldn't just watch a half-hour episode and then wait a few days for another installment. Instead, those wise sybils shuffled the structure into a two-hour premiere and finale and four one-hour episodes in between.

The cast for such an endeavor is, as one would expect, top-notch. Charles Dance as the evil Mr. Tulkinghorn and Gillian Anderson as the icy Lady Dedlock provide the two most recognizable faces in the bunch, but standouts include Anna Maxwell Martin (Esther Summerson), Dennis Lawson (John Jarndyce), Carey Mulligan (Ada Clare), and Burn Gorman (Guppy), who turns in a chilling performance as the oily Esther-obssessed young lawyer who unknowingly propells the plot (and several characters' ultimate fates) with each move.

So far, the plot of Bleak House is like literary crack and contains everything one expect from Dickens and more: mistaken identity, assumed names, duplicitous detectives, orphans, saintly street-crossing cleaners, star-crossed lovers, lawsuits, and a case of spontaneous combustion. Yes, you read that last bit right: Dickens kills off a supporting character by having him suddenly explode into flames from within.

And when Miss Flite and Mr. Snagsby run into Guppy outside the deceased's establishment and both remark on the greasy flakes that seem to be everywhere in the air, you just know that Dickens must have chuckled at his own cleverness upon writing such a gruesome, shocking scene.

Bleak House currently airs Sunday evenings at 9 pm PST on PBS. Check your local listings.


Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

Have a Burning Question for Team Darlton, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, or Michael Emerson?

Lost fans: you don't have to make your way to the island via Ajira Airways in order to ask a question of the creative team or the series' stars. Televisionary is taking questions from fans to put to Lost 's executive producers/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and stars Matthew Fox ("Jack Shephard"), Evangeline Lilly ("Kate Austen"), and Michael Emerson ("Benjamin Linus") for a series of on-camera interviews taking place this weekend. If you have a specific question for any of the above producers or actors from Lost , please leave it in the comments section below . I'll be accepting questions until midnight PT tonight and, while I can't promise I'll be able to ask any specific inquiry due to the brevity of these on-camera interviews, I am looking for some insightful and thought-provoking questions to add to the mix. So who knows: your burning question might get asked after all.

What's Done is Done: The Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil on the Season Finale of "Lost"

Every story begins with thread. It's up to the storyteller to determine just how much they need to parcel out, what pattern they're making, and when to cut it short and tie it off. With last night's penultimate season finale of Lost ("The Incident, Parts One and Two"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we began to see the pattern that Lindelof and Cuse have been designing towards the last five seasons of this serpentine series. And it was only fitting that the two-hour finale, which pushes us on the road to the final season of Lost , should begin with thread, a loom, and a tapestry. Would Jack follow through on his plan to detonate the island and therefore reset their lives aboard Oceanic Flight 815 ? Why did Locke want to kill Jacob? What caused The Incident? What was in the box and just what lies in the shadow of the statue? We got the answers to these in a two-hour season finale that didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop of previous seas