1981, TV

Brideshead Revisited (1981)

This is a nearly unprecedented 700 minute TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It is about as good as it gets for these British “chamber” TV shows, and is a reminder (when you watch it) that we are seriously missing out because more classic literature isn’t adapted into TV miniseries.

I am not a Catholic and tend to think their sect is on the more ridiculous end of the Christian spectrum, so I struggled with my enjoyment of parts of this story. But it is, on the whole, affecting, even if it is very much the struggles of the idle rich (and the wannabe idle rich).

But, for me, the real value is its nearly unprecedented demonstration of the possibilities of television. I say nearly unprecedented because Fassbinder made Berlin Alexanderplatz, a longer, more ambitious TV adaptation of classic literature, a year or two prior. And this is no Berlin Alexanderplatz, it adheres too much to the cliches of British TV dramas of this ilk (or, perhaps, it helped establish them) and whoever directed it is no Fassbinder. (Who is Fassbinder’s equal, really?) But I still think there’s pretty much nothing like this in English television or film prior to its release and, as such, it’s a true landmark.

Watching it I couldn’t help but think about all the novels I wish creative people would adapt to 7000 minute TV one-off series. I wish that A Song of Ice and Fire wasn’t the only thing we’d get to watch.

For me, that’s the value of watching this – being reminded of the still yet unfulfilled possibilities of TV.

8/10

  • Written by Evelyn Waugh (novel), Derek Granger et al. (script)
  • Directed by Charles Sturridge, Michael Lindsay-Hogg
  • Starring:
    • Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder
    • Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte
    • Diana Quick as Julia Flyte
    • Simon Jones as Lord Brideshead
    • Phoebe Nicholls as Cordelia Flyte
    • Claire Bloom as Lady Marchmain
    • Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain
    • John Gielgud as Edward Ryder
    • Charles Keating as Rex Mottram
    • Jeremy Sinden as Boy Mulcaster
    • Mona Washbourne as Nanny Hawkins
    • John Grillo as Mr. Samgrass
    • Nickolas Grace as Anthony Blanche
    • Jane Asher as Celia Ryder
    • Stéphane Audran as Cara
    • Niall Tóibín as Father Mackay
    • Stephen Moore as Jasper
  • Theme music composer: Geoffrey Burgon
  • Country of origin: United Kingdom
  • Original language: English
  • No. of series: 1
  • No. of episodes: 11
  • Producer: Derek Granger
  • Running time: 659 minutes
  • Production company: Granada Television
  • Distributor: ITV Studios
  • Original network: ITV
  • Picture format: 4:3
  • Audio format: Mono
  • Original release: 12 October – 22 December 1981

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