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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Masterpiece Kickoff Madness: This May Be The Last Merry Season

Bronteblog points out a MOST DISTRESSING article in the Guardian called "The Death of the Bonnet" about changes in the BBC Drama department.

This change, which follows the appointment of a new head of drama commissioning at the BBC, will mean that in future there will be less of the types of serials that have characterised the corporation's output over recent years, such as Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Lark Rise to Candleford, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Daniel Deronda and Pride and Prejudice.

In their place the BBC is planning more period dramas along the lines of this week's The Diary of Anne Frank and the remake of John Buchan's spy novel, The 39 Steps, which aired over Christmas.

The move comes after ratings dipped for BBC1's most recent costume drama, Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, which sank to a low of 2.5 million viewers for one midweek episode last month. By comparison, The Diary of Anne Frank pulled in about 4.5 million viewers, while The 39 Steps, starring former Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones, attracted 7.3 million.

A senior BBC drama insider told the Guardian: "There is to be an evolution in the presentation of period dramas, moving away from classic 19th century so-called 'bonnet' dramas to looking at other periods of history.

"This will allow us to look at other times and places in British and world history. The aim is to give drama audiences something new and different to enjoy."

This is straight BS.

But there are a few reasons to not despair.

First, the BBC knows it has a surefire thing going with many wildly successful 19th century adaptations, and so if their season focuses a little less on such things and has more variety, it doesn't mean it will be abandoning them entirely.

Secondly, ITV is picking up the slack. Their quality has been much poorer than their counterparts, but there are glimmers of hope, such as last year's Northanger Abbey.

So while this is disappointing, I am most assiduously determined to see the bright side.

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