Emma 2009 Part II

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Sorry we’re a little late putting this up! We would love to hear what our UK readers thought about part II of the series.

58 thoughts on “Emma 2009 Part II

  1. Helen Wilkinson

    Oh look! What unseasonal weather we are enjoying on Christmas Eve! Why, all of the trees are in full leaf and the grasses by the lake are waving their heads in the strangely balmy air. Odder and odder – by Boxing Day, the trees are bare and enough snow lies thick on the ground for Mr Knightley, John and the children to indulge in a snowball fight. Bless. Meanwhile, I wear leggings under my muslin frock and when no one is looking, I plug my Ipod surreptitiously into my ear to drown out this awful background music. Harriet has a cold and no handkerchief to sneeze into and Mr Elton has made an apology for a proposal. I say nothing about his being no more to me than a common acquaintance and he does not pursue his passionate speeches beyond a cursory attempt to gain my hand. I cry lots when I have to tell Harriet and the nicely wrapped Christmas present does little to make amends. Miss Bates appears prematurely grey in face and hair and continues to say little on any subject at all . . . Mrs Bates continues catatonic. I meet a man on a horse – golly, it’s Frank Churchill, all the way from the North for a day’s reconnaissance of the area – and yell at him from a field away – but then I am Miss Woodhouse and I don’t have to adhere to the social rules which apply
    to everyone else. Not that many others are sticking to them either.
    Courtesy of my friend Hazel.

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  2. Lisa

    On the positive, the acting was less horrendously OTT than it was in ep.1. They had axed the narrator. The costumes are still quite nice (if only Emma wasn’t wearing a ribbon tied aroud her waist like a 9 yo all the time). Jane Fairfax actually wasn’t half bad. On the negative, Harriet is still an idiot. The whole conversation about John and Isabella’s trip to the seaside was ridiculous. The scenery was just painful – first it’s all lush English early summer, then it snows and lo and behold, the trees are bare, the ground white, the ponds frozen and everybody is happy playing around in the worst fake snow ever. Miss Bates still has an OCD. Emma runs eagerly to meet some random stranger she sees riding on the fields – by a stroke of luck it’s Frank Churchill, who apparently lives just around the corner and in any case, half a day’s ride away. Everybody gossips about Jane and Mr. Dixon, who remarkably saved Jane’s life when she stumbled on a rock while walking on a beach. And Mr. Woodhouse is a robust man, strong as a horse, will wait (for hours) outdoors for his daughter, but also is a terrible hypochondriac.

    I’m really starting to love this adaptation now.

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    • Sylvia M.

      The conversation about John and Isabella’s trip to the seaside is in the book. I’m guessing since they keep referring to the fact that Emma’s never been out of Highbury that they will stick to the book and make Emma go to the seaside for her honeymoon.

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  3. slw2004

    I thought that it improved vastly as soon as Elton went away. Harriet was annoying as well and for quite a bit of the time I wondered where the Emma’s intelligence had gone. Also, did anyone else feel that Mr John Knightly had turned into a Mr Palmer?

    Emma and Mr Knightley’s interactions continue to amuse, but I’m not sure if that’s not because I do have a soft spot for Jonny Lee Millar.

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  4. Maisie

    I thought this Emma was awful! She is ungainly, gurns all the time and has no chemistry whatsoever with JLM! She is so daft, no-one would take her seriously and take her advice surely! But it is a lot better than some of the other programmes and is pretty to look at.

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  5. Tina

    Oh, no! Mr. John Knightley as Mr. Palmer? Sometimes I think he’s my favorite character in Emma and I hate to see him not done well.

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    • Sylvia M.

      I thought John Knightley was fine and wasn’t like Mr. Palmer. This is the book description of him.

      Mr. John Knightley was a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man; rising in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour. He was not an ill-tempered man, not so often unreasonably cross as to deserve such a reproach; but his temper was not his great perfection; and, indeed, with such a worshipping wife, it was hardly possible that any natural defects in it should not be increased. The extreme sweetness of her temper must hurt his. He had all the clearness and quickness of mind which she wanted, and he could sometimes act an ungracious, or say a severe thing. He was not a great favourite with his fair sister-in-law.

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  6. I actually thought Harriet was one of the real strengths of this episode – it takes a lot for me to like someone who is a dumb as she is, but I did like her. And I still find Romola excellent, even if I think the whole carriage argument with Mr. Knightley was a bit done to death.

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    • Sylvia M.

      I quite liked the man we could see in the bottom right corner of the screen during Emma and Mrs. Weston’s conversation. Now he would have made a great main character in one of the Austen adaptations. I don’t know whom, but surely he could be someone important.

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  7. Karenlee

    Well, am trying to download that video clip (takes at least 10 minutes) – hope it works as I would love to see it. It’s up on BBC website, but apparently won’t work if you’re outside the UK. WHY do they do that ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ?

    P.S. When you (or at least I) download it, I only get sound – no image ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . Hope someone puts it up on You Tube…

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    • Cinthia

      The subscribers to the YT channel that has it uploaded have received the following message:

      “Unfortunately it looks like someone has reported to the BBC about the Emma videos I uploaded. I haven’t gotten any notice yet but don’t be surprised if you see the clips (or this account) gone. Please don’t post direct links to the clips or my channel in public forums, or compile the episodes in a playlist. I’ll see if i can upload the 2nd episode in a couple of days. I’m sorry for the delay and thanks!”

      So I’m just passing the request and thus continue my plead to be discreet about it.

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      • Cinthia

        Please, Sylvia, I hope you do not think I was pointing fingers at someone in particular (or at least not here, though there are other sites which are suspect of the leaking out). It was just that through Karenlee’s comment it was perhaps a good opportunity to notify what is going on. I do really beg pardon if someone has been offended by my previous post.

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  8. Maria L.

    After the first episode, I lowered my expectations yet another hundred notches and was determined to find something to like. After viewing the second episode, I have to say I like the opening credits very much. I liked Mr. Elton somewhat better this time, though the timing and pace of the carriage proposal scene seemed off to me and the humor fell kind of flat. I like Frank Churchill; it seems he is going to be just charming enough to avoid being completely slimy. And Harriet is suitably pretty and stupid although her hairdo drives me to distraction.

    All that said, even though she was not as OTT as in the first go-around, I am disliking Romola very much. She continues grinning like the village idiot a fair amount of time and popping out those baby blue eyes of hers so often Iโ€™m beginning to think that Emma has a thyroid problem. Much of her behavior remains firmly planted in the 21st century which I find completely and utterly unappealing, not to mention un-Emma like. JLM is just so blah that heโ€™s barely registering on my radar. Mr. Woodhouse remains far too hale and hearty. I think Mr. Gambon should have gone ahead and read the book after all.

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  9. Emmsifop

    It has flaws…oh it does! But I love it!

    The scenery and cinematography is excellent, and Emma’s dresses I want!!

    I like the banter-y relationship between Emma and Knightley.
    As for the faults, I choose to ignore them or not pick up on them…I choose to just enjoy it for what it is!! Sometimes looking out for deviations and faults can be tiresome…go on, stop looking for things to dislike and enjoy its good parts! My reasoning is this: surely, if you are on the constant lookout for mistakes, bad calls, etc, then you’ll never find any adaptation of your favourite author’s novels enjoyable. I know Emma is being portrayed a bit more giddily and prone to gurning than generally imagined in the book, but, there’s not much we can do but relax and watch it.

    I think this is becoming my favourite adaptation, closely followed by the Paltow version.

    Compared to Sandy Welch’s Jane Eyre 06 and North and South 04, I think it doesn’t quite compare: her previous two are better.

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    • Maria L.

      Hmmm, perhaps you are right. I will ignore the Emma-who-isnโ€™t-Emma, the Knightley-whoโ€™s-hardly-Knightley and the not-quite-Mr. Woodhouse because I donโ€™t want to nitpick. I can then enjoy it for what it is—a very pretty, period-challenged, haphazardly modernized loose adaptation of a novel written by Stuffy Old Jane Austen Who Needs a Lot of Help to be understood by us dopey modern people ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Or maybe I can just close my eyes and think of England while I watch (actually that might help) ๐Ÿ™‚

      There are a number of less-than-perfect adaptations of Austen that I love, despite their faults or โ€œbad-callsโ€. This, alas, is not shaping up to be one of them, but I will persevere to the end. Who knows, maybe by the next episode Perry can give Emma a remedy for that little bug-eyed problem of hers….

      I will agree with you that this adaptation falls short in comparison to the work that Welch did on Jane Eyre and North and South, especially in dramatic pacing. Iโ€™m actually finding it kind of boring at times. To each her own Emma, I guess.

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  10. Sandra_in_the_US

    Emmsifop, I must disagree with your sentiment that we should ignore faults and just relax and enjoy an adaptation “for what it is”. Especially when “what it is” is not what it’s supposed to be. Many a Janeite before me has lamented the habit of taking Austen’s work, rendering it completely unrecognizable, and then serving it up as ” a modern take”. If you want to do a period drama that has nothing to do with Austen, fine. Write your own. If you want to do a modern interpretation, also fine. Set it a period where the behavior makes sense. But don’t, for the love of God and Tullamore Dew, set 21st century manners in 19th century dress. It isn’t clever. It’s lazy. And false advertising as well. The filmmakers promise Austen and deliver dross.

    Of course one can always find specifics in a production that don’t match the images in one’s own mind. That doesn’t make it a bad adaptation. A novel can’t be transliterated to the screen exactly and if the filmmakers make their choices make sense in the context of the production, there isn’t much to complain about. But when they miss the mark, it only makes sense for a rational person to notice that. You certainly have every right to enjoy this version if you so choose, so I wonder why you suggest that those who do not enjoy it should pretend that they do.

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  11. Sylvia M.

    I’m liking it so far. The biggest thing for me is the 21st century manners. Even people who don’t particularly like period drama are going to recognise that it is out of place. Those people wouldn’t be watching it any way. If they are going to be converted than I think they would want it to be correct. It works the other way too. What would we think if a modern day drama had the people bowing, ladies always wearing hats/bonnets outside? Actually, those manners can still be seen somewhat in films as late as the 1950’s or 1960’s.

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  12. LynnS

    Someone please define “gurning!” I thought I was fairly familiar with UK expressions, but I’ve not come across this one.

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    • Sylvia M.

      According to Wikipedia, gurn is a distorted facial expression, and a verb to describe the action. A typical gurn might involve projecting the lower jaw as far forward and up as possible, and covering the upper lip with the lower lip.

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  13. Brian M

    Without question this is the worst Emma adaptation by far, about one step up from total garbage. The only positive I can point to through two episodes is the nice cinematography.
    JLM is a total joke as Mr. Knightley. Where is the age/maturity gap? He and Emma look the same age and act like squabbling siblings. Emma acts like a 13-year-old spoiled brat, which perhaps is the target audience for this adaptation. Her constant face-making, eye-rolling, and waving are utterly ridiculous.
    The eventual pairing of Knightley and Emma was obvious from, oh, about the 5-minute mark of Episode 1, so what’s the point?
    I want to know who at the BBC decided to turn Emma into dumbed-down, syrupy pablum? Sandy Welch? Is there a place to leave feedback at the BBC?

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    • kiki

      Yup, you can actually complain and sometimes it even reaches TV (your own complaint that is). The programm is cllad ‘Points of View’ and they assemble all comments and post them to the appropriate people. From time to time they do a real broadcast with the most notable things in it.

      I am compiling a booklet for them. I started with a letter, but there is so much wrong with this adaptation that is rather becoming a kind of book with in it what is wrong and companrisons between wh

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  14. I heartedly agree about the Romola eye-popping and manners of a 13 year-old. I have a cousin this age who behave more mature. But I liked John Knightly and his glazes toward Emma, when she starts to realize he maybe right about Elton (which, by the way, I never saw slimier acted). The carriage proposal lacked a great deal of humor and embarrassment – shouldn’t Emma be more overwhelmed by it and not so bossy, and his proposal more enthusiastic and corny?

    As Maria L. I sometimes found it kinda boring, though I enjoy the arguments between JLM and RG, though they are not very Austen in manners.

    I wonder, if anyone not acquainted with the story, will get fooled by the who-marries-whom plot? Didn’t they give a lot away with the intro in ep. 1 with the jane-and-emma-and-frank is bound together by birth thing?

    Also – the guy standing in front of Mr. Knightly when Jane is playing – is it just me, or does he look a bit like Cliff Richard??

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  15. kiki

    I don’t know whether I have posted this a short time ago or not, but my computer suddenly decided to post… Anyway, one can give feedback to the BBC in a programme called ‘Points of View’. They collect all complaints and transfer them to the rigt person. From time to time they make a broadcast with the most notable ones in it. They might even call you up to read your own…

    Anyway, I was going to write a letter telling them what was wrong this time, but this thing has so much wrong with it that it is becoming a booklet now. With comparisons between what it said in the original and what Welch made of it (mostly wrong message really). Sad, really. I don’t get illusions about them doing anything with it, but at least it settles my heart ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am now watching every episode twice (God save me), but I missed the second one because they put it on at another time than last week. Is there anyone who can get me a free download?

    my e-mail:

    kboddaerd@yahoo.co.uk

    thanks in advance!

    regards,
    k

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  16. Joanne

    Good luck with that Kiki… got a lot of free time on your hands have you?

    I am also watching every episode twice, and I’m writing to the Beeb asking for more… another series or maybe even a spin-off show? ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Joanne

        That would be almost funny if you had your facts straight. That show has been around for 2 or 3 years, and in book form for several years. That would make this Emma a spin-off from Gossip Girl. Read you history books Brain M.

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    • kiki

      Yup, loads of time. I write articles about books and series like this. I just found the first episode such an abomination that I became furious at the Beeb.

      I don’t think even RG liked her own performance, to be hnnest. SHe said in an interview (and the girl has a degree in literature, bless her) that it is sometimes difficult to find a balance between what the director/writer wants and what you as an actor find should be part of your character… I cannot imagine that she can be so wrong as finding this at all good. They really toned it down to stupidity-level.

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  17. Brian M

    No, no, I had my facts straight. My intention, which you apparently missed, was to take a sarcastic jab at the maturity level of this Emma adaptation by comparing it to the Gossip Girl franchise. It also helps that this Emma’s behavior is more in line with what one would expect from that series. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  18. Maria L.

    When this Emma especially irritates, I find myself thinking that this is how Goldie Hawn would play her…and that leads to musing that Harriet looks very much like Taylor Swift and that Kanye West as Mr. Elton would certainly liven things up and work with the whole “modernizing” Emma philosophy ๐Ÿ™‚

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  19. sharan

    Saw episode 1 and on the wole was a little disappointed with RG- had seen her in other movies and expected more. I hoped its because Ep 1 she is younger and she will grow up and be more mature as the story progresses.Her interactions with her dad makes her seem like a younger Miss Bates- as if she’s gonna grow up to be a Miss Bates if she does not marry. ANyone else thinks so?
    But even with the little irritations I am so pleased to have a new Austen adaptation to look forward to.
    Could whoever is posting feedback to BBC also suggest that they do an adaptation of Sanditan (the one finished by Maria Dobbs) with Rachel Weisz and Jude Law in the leading roles…it would be a dream come true for me ;>.

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  20. @Sharan: I can see what you mean with Emma/Mr. Woodhouse and Miss/Mrs Bates. In the book Emma herself says to Harriet, that she won’t get a sad old spinster, because she’s rich – think this conversation was in ep 1? And … besides the fact that Emma is a BIT more clever and pretty than Miss Bates, the main difference between them is their situation in life and the money? But I hadn’t noticed it until you mentioned it – is the comparison between the two so clear in the novel? Feel like reading it again to find out!

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    • sharan

      @Malene :> in the book I enjoyed the depiction of the different situations of unmarried women- Mrs Weston was saved from a possibly bleak single future by her marraige, Miss Fairfax seemed doomed to be the Other woman because of lack of fortune, Miss Bates suffered the loneliness and stigma of genteel poor with an eldrly mum in tow, and Emma seemed contented with her future as a rich mistress of Highbury. But in this version of Emma, the way RG portrayed her (without the elegance, maturity and hauteur of previous Emmas) I could not help but see her growing into a talkative, friend-seeking (albeit richer and more meddlesome)version of Miss Bates. Have not seen Ep 3 or 4 yet though…hoping hher portrayal matures as the story progresses…

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  21. @Sharan: I think you’re quite right about RG’s Emma, especially if one only judge from ep 1&2. She grows a little in ep 3, but not enough to make up for the first two episodes:) And as you say; the main problem with RG’ Emma, is the lack of elegance, maturity and hauteur. We are supposed to hate her a little bit in the book in the very beginning (which I do every time I read it, and then she always grows on me!) – but RG’s Emma is a bit like a very annoying younger sister.

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    • kiki

      I agree. At the end of episode 4 I was kind of wondering what Knightley saw in her, to be honest. Beautyful end, but as he says to Mrs Elton, he has now a wife to take of organisation in the household, but I was rather thinking he was saddled with a useless girl of 17 who has not the faintest clue… He will have to everything himself, bless him, ah, but he loves her… I don’t know, RG and JLM I found not believable as Emma and Knightley, not like Beckinsale and Strong. JLM did not come across as a father figure, I couldn’t take him seriously enough… RG wasn’t the mistress of Hartfield, she was a child in her little world. The lady of Harfield was not self-confident enough to be ‘naturally’ that. Austen is not at all demandig on looks, but one needs to study the characters very carefully. That is obviously what Welch did not.

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  22. patricia

    These comments make me sick….and very mad.
    I appreciate that this site is for those of you who think you are er, ‘purists’ and somehow think you are above the artistic licence of television costume drama. Why can you not simply appreciate the Emma production as a piece of entertainment. I loved it. I loved Jonny Lee Miller. I loved Romola Garai. I loved the modern twist. I hate that you cannot “get it”

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    • Brian M

      To each his own. You loved it, and no one is telling you to not post your appreciation for it. I on the other hand mostly hated it and I’m going to say so. And I’m not even a Jane Austen “purist.” I found the latest Emma to be a juvenile, incompetent piece of filmmaking. It wouldn’t matter if I hadn’t seen any of the previous adaptations — it’s a bad movie on its own.

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    • kiki

      Like Patricia said, to each his own. But, do not forget they call it an ‘adaptation’. That word means something. If you distort the original so much that it is barely recogisable, then it is the question that it should be called an adaptation. Nobody said that Johnny Lee Miller is a bad actor. Nor is Romola Garai. Only all parts are very shallowly and sometimes even badly written, give the wrong impression. Thus, it is no mere piece of entertainment like now ‘Garrow’s Law’ is. It is a distortion of Austen’s masterpiece. And I am not a purist. I enjoyed ‘Lost in Austen’. And that was a distortion of P&P, but a clever and very funny one, which this Emma did not even come close to.

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      • patricia

        Whatever you think of it, Emma is a literary adaptation from text to screen.
        In most cases, adaptations have an immediate commercial viability…..
        ….In spite of this however, the headline “Emma Fatigue Sees BBC Viewers Turn Off In Millions” makes me very forlorn.

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  23. Brian M

    There are two possibilities here:
    1) The public is tired of period anything. This is a very convenient explanation for the BBC, which is turning away from period productions to do other things.
    2) This adaptation of Emma is a poor one and received poor ratings because of it.

    I believe the second explanation is correct, because I think that a quality adaptation will be generally well-received regardless of viewing trends.
    The best one can say about this Emma, based merely on forums like this one, is that the potential fan-base is split. Some like it, some hate it. If the people who hate it quit watching, the adaptation has already lost the ratings battle.

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    • kiki

      I agree. There was only one newspaper that had something remotely good to say about this adaptation and that was The Guardian. The jurnalist did not get past the two main actors who were ‘so good’. Nor did she get past the outside of the production which was nice admitedly. The Tlegraph found that ‘the soufflรฉ ha[d] fallen’ after the 3rd episode and The Independent really also did not like it. Not to mention The Times that only decided to spend one sentence on the thing and a very sarcastic one at that.

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    • irish p

      Well my new friends ๐Ÿ˜€ I believe that Brian M’s first explanation is much more valid. There is no doubt that the period drama will sink without a trace for a long time to come, after ‘Emma’ was, sadly, such a ratings disaster. The X-factor got 10.3 million viewers, Strictly got over 8.4 million. The 3.3 million for Emma is a reflection of the habits of the British viewing public. Period dramas are seen as dull and stuffy and restrained.

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      • Maria L.

        Though the Beeb may be eager to use this as further justification not to do any more period dramas, I do not agree that it just a reflection of the habits of the British viewing public. (Besides, a lot of Auntie Beeb’s profit on this type of programming comes from churning these out as cash cows in foreign markets like the US.)

        If you look at the reader comments accompanying some of the earlier “Emma Fatigue” articles, there certainly were some comments by people who hate period dramas–but they probably never would tune in anyway. There were a number of comments from people who are tired of seeing the same old books being adapted over and over, and some comments that reflect Austen fatigue overall. But there were also quite a number of comments from people who love Austen/period dramas, but just hated this one. Remember this Emma lost over one million viewers between the first and the third episode. (I never read about any ratings numbers for the final installment?)

        When you decide to “reinvent” a beloved and well-known classic in the name of appealing to a “modern” audience, I think you take the risk of alienating as many people as you attract.

        When the Christmas Cranford airs, perhaps we’ll get a better idea of how viewers really feel about their period dramas.

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