Emma 2009 on PBS beginning January 24


Alert Janeite Cinthia posted in comments that Emma 2009 will be broadcast on Masterpiece Classics in three parts, beginning January 24 through February 7, 2010, thus pointing out the inherent problems in the “year” adaptation classification system *shakes fist at Masterpiece and its laggy timing*. The trailer, as has already been pointed out in comments, is better than the British teaser.

Interest in the series here on AustenBlog remains high, unsurprisingly, but Alert Janeite Lisa sent us a link that says overall interest in the series is waning.

Earlier this week just 3.3million tuned in to watch the series, which features Romola Garai as Emma, Michael Gambon as her father and Jonny Lee Miller as the dashing Mr Knightley.

Traditionally the BBC’s classic dramas get ratings of more than five or six million.

But just 4.4million watched the first episode and since then more than a million have switched off.

Emma’s poor performance has led some to question the BBC’s decision to adapt an Austen classic that has been on screen so many times before.

One leading drama producer said: ‘I don’t think audiences are as excited about Emma – perhaps they are not excited by Austen anymore.’

Or maybe they just didn’t find the first part interesting enough to tune back in for the second? Of course, we handed Auntie Beeb bulletproof casting on a solid-gold platter but did they listen to us? Noooooooo. And we’re not even the only ones saying so. (Scroll down a bit.)

As for the casting of badboy Jonny Lee Miller as the wise, older Mr Knightley, where is the divinely brooding and grown-up Richard Armitage when you need him? Answer me that.

See? Though now we are of the opinion that the divinely brooding &c. Mr. A. would have been wasted in this particular production, it not being the definitively faithful version we had hoped for, but Austen filtered through Oprah. UK viewers, use this as your report-on-the-fourth-episode thread. We’ll post some other stuff about other things later tonight.

58 thoughts on “Emma 2009 on PBS beginning January 24

  1. Maisie

    I watched last Sunday’s episode and to tell you the truth I got the impression that JLM yawned his way through it. The last half hour was a little better. I don’t like this Emma at all. She is ungainly, gurns a lot, and I can’t get myself to care about her. Michael Gambon is excellent as the hypochondriac father, but then I wouldn’t expect him to be anything else. Worse still, no chemistry between Emma and Mr K EXCEPT for the dance which for a moment raised the production up a bit. Last episode tonight and I will post when I watch it. However it is a hundred times better than watching these reality shows!


    • Ruby

      You and I have different definitions of both chemistry and likeability, apparently! It seems like every adaptation it becomes even more obvious how easy it is to have dramatically different interpretations/priorities with regards to our beloved Austen. 🙂


    • I think it’s akin to mugging or any other extremely obvious facial expression. But I would disagree that it should be applied to Romola’s acting – I find it (accepting the director’s intent of “having modern body language”) very moving and powerful. But that’s me.


  2. Jane W

    Good Morning,

    I am not used to ‘posting comments’ – but felt most strongly inclined to give my opinion regarding the final episode of ‘Emma’ last night.

    I have been greatly disappointed throughout this new adaptation, but I felt that last night’s episode really was the worst. I simply could not overlook the scene of Frank Churchill sprawled on the ground at the Box Hill excursion, with his head nestled in Emma’s lap (whilst the rest of the party casually looked on, without even a raised eyebrow!)
    Then, immediately after insulting Miss Bates, Emma and Frank break into simultaneous laughter at her!
    Equally unforgivable to me – Jane and Frank kissing and cuddling in the High street of Highbury – with everybody else casually going about their business, as they do when such a scene occurs today!

    Not for me at all – Emmas of 1972, and both production of 1996 a million times better!


  3. Boris

    Thanks to the movie producers for their efforts. I think the actors performed their roles very well; I hope this adaptation, though not being among the greatest ones, will not be the last one and the movie producers’ interest in Austen will continue.

    Video clip 1 – Box Hill scene

    video clip 2 – Emma and Mr. Knightley in love

    video clip 3 – Happy endings


  4. Brittany

    Considering that they added so many Mr Woodhouse scenes, I was shocked when they didn’t show us Emma and Mr Knightley announcing their engagement and his reaction. It would have been the perfect moment for Michael Gambon to do something other than fuss and complain. I love Gambon but he really was wasted in this production – they probably could have gotten someone much cheaper to complain about chills and traveling.

    I’ve had problems with Garai’s acting in all the other episodes but once Emma realised that she was in love she seemed to calm down (except for the “I can’t marry you” scene) and I quite liked the scene where she and Knightley sat together after the proposal.

    But, overall, I’ve been quite disappointed by this adaptation.


  5. I can’t wait to see this series for myself when it is on PBS! I am always excited about a new Austen production. I scoff at the statement that interest in Austen is waning. I noticed PBS did this with the last set of Austens, they are not the same year as they were aired in the U.K. so I always call them the 2008 version.


  6. BarbK

    I completely agree with the comment about RA, I would have loved to have seen him in the role of Mr. Knightly. So would others, pity…


  7. Karenlee

    There were many things I liked very much about this adaptation, a number I didn’t like at all, with the rest falling somewhere in between, but there was only one that disappointed me so much I could cry in frustration (and I’m really surprised about this, because they amped up the drama and emotional emoting in so many other aspects: after hearing from Emma that she never really cared for Frank Churchill at all, Mr Knightly – suddenly and impetuously – decides to declare his feelings. The man has NO idea whatsoever what has been going through Emma’s mind. All he hopes for is that she will not forbid his trying to attach her her if he can. And then, from her reaction, comes the realization that, “the affection, which he had been asking to be allowed to create if he could, was already his!”

    Is this or is this not a moment which demands that an actor let the dawning realization of this play across his face – and hopefully so convincingly that it sends every viewer fumbling for the goddamn Kleenex? When Emma steps toward him face aglow, and places her hands tenderly on either side of his face (in a gesture that says everything), Johnny Lee Miller just wrinkles his bloody forehead!! NoNoNoNoNO!!!! Oh…. that just eviscerated the heart and soul of what is one of the book’s ultimate scenes for me. 😦 😦 😦


    • I am sorry you see it that way. I thought Miller’s response was excellent and subtle, as well as very moving. But I am somewhat partial to the adaption anyway.


  8. Maisie

    I watched the final episode and thought it was awful! No chemistry between the leads, I couldn’t have cared less if they got together in the end and neither could they. JLM could have said “whatever” when “Emma” stopped him telling her he loved her. Pretty costumes and wonderful locations, that’s about it.


  9. Rhonda

    Well, after watching all 4 episodes, I have to say that it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either. While I like some of the casting: Mr. Woodhouse, The Eltons, The Westons, and Miss Bates, others didn’t seem to fit. Frank Churchill was more whiny than playful while Mr John Knightley was another Mr Palmer (from S&S)!

    I agree with others that they missed out with the casting of Mr. Knightley. While I like JLM, I would rather have had RA in the part. Badly done, BBC!

    I still think the Paltrow/Northam version best, both in writing and casting. Now that’s a proposal scene to knock your socks off!

    Let’s hope the next Austen or similar series gets back to the quality of the 1996 P&P (Colin Firth version). I’d personally love to see some of Georgette Heyer’s books filmed, but only if done with a great cast and screenplay! (Hint, hint, BBC! Another role for Richard Armitage!)


  10. Ruby

    I think complaining about this adaptation because it doesn’t have Richard Armitage in it is rather bizarre, much as we all love the man. It’s like complaining that Colin Firth wasn’t the lead in all period pieces made in the five years following Pride and Prejudice. Armitage was delightful in North and South, and continues to be hot as hell in pretty much anything else he appears in, but I’m not exactly furious that he wasn’t cast in a perhaps too similar part simply to satisfy our grumpy-man-with-a-dazzling-smile lust.


    • Anita

      I couldn’t have said it better. I adored Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe in N&S but to be quite honest I don’t think I’m ready to see him be that romantic with another female. Call me whatever you will but the two of them go together for me.


      • Agree completely. Armitage is a wonderful actor, and I think he’d be fantastic as most of the Austen heros, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only one out there who would be. I was rather upset with the BBC for casting Johnny Lee Miller, but after a few episodes, he completely won me over. I say give him a chance!


      • Monica

        For once some sense around here. I heartily agree with you. If you don’t like JLM in this adaptation tough beans. The way everyone is bemoaning RA not getting the role you’d think they wouldn’t be satisfied till he was given the romantic lead in every period drama since N&S. Don’t get me wrong, I adore him in N&S. The main reason being the ridiculous chemistry between him and Daniela Denby-Ashe (who btw, never gets much mention next to him). Together they made that film what it was. All the same I am perfectly willing to let other actors have a go at capturing my heart in the same way. They may fail in the attempt but one never knows till they have been given a try. I seem to recall that N&S was RA’s first time in a leading role and who knows what would have happened had he not been given the chance.


      • Mags

        The way everyone is bemoaning RA not getting the role you’d think they wouldn’t be satisfied till he was given the romantic lead in every period drama since N&S.

        Works for me. 😉

        As much as I enjoyed his work in N&S, it’s really Sir Guh, er, Guy of Gisborne in the otherwise risibly awful Robin Hood that rocks my socks. The black leather, lordy lordy. And in a faithful adaptation of Emma, Mr. Knightley’s gaiters might have been black leather. Just saying.


      • Maria L.

        Mags, even my extreme adoration of RA hasn’t been enough to get me through an entire episode of Robin Hood, not even his very, very fine leather look.

        I’m still holding out for Captain Wentworth. Now there’s a fine specimen of a man….


  11. Liann

    Being the Austenite that I am, I’m shocked that I just discovered this site but am glad to have done so, especially after just viewing the new BBC production of Emma.

    I try to be open-minded when it comes to new adaptations. I know that there will be changes, that some lines will be left out, that some license will be taken (sadly) with the characters. But at least with Austen, I feel secure in knowing that the basic story-line will never and CAN never change.

    But herein lies my biggest problem with the whole of this production.
    In spite of all the doings and happening of Highbury and the angst and struggles of it’s inhabitants, out of all of Jane Austen’s novels, I feel that Emma is the one most clearly and most importantly focused on class and class relations. Its almost as though Austen, in writing Emma, was working out just how she felt about High Class and Low Class and the divides between them, because sometimes, when re-reading Emma, it feels she is saddened at the separation, and at other times Austen seems to feel that class separation is necessary and important. Whatever the read provides as a moral, Emma cannot escape being a novel about Society.

    This new production, in its attempt to modernize and “pep up” the story and its characters, did not, I feel, capture this struggle. Harriet’s character is almost non-existent, and her relationship with Emma, such a tense point in the book, seems over-looked in this story. Part I dealt with it a little, but that aspect of the story soon seemed abandoned. And Harriet seemed less like the simple girl with no good example of society and behavior–indeed, it was this production’s Emma who seemed the girlish, childish, immature creature.

    Granted, in some ways, this new look on her character was nice; Emma’s over-confidence and zealous behavior seems here more attributed to her age and self-ignorance. But again, Emma being a novel about society, the main heroine of the tale is a LADY. I never once felt that Romola’s Emma was a lady. She was crass, loud, jittery, and un-composed. I do not think Emma can never smile or joke or laugh, but she must always be an example of “GOOD BREEDING.” The disparity created between Emma and Harriet in this version seems almost opposite of what it should be. Emma seems destined to add animation to Harriet and yet take in none of Harriet’s apparent composure.

    However, I think this Emma may have been more tolerable had she been paired with a different Knightley (Richard Armitage or otherwise). While I feel Emma very unlikable, I do not think that had anything to do with her acting talent. That was the way Walsh wrote this Emma, and that was how she was directed to be. JML’s Knightley, however, I could not stand, and I feel it has very little to do with the writing and direction, and more to do with the actor’s fit for the role.

    Knightley is a GENTLEMAN. He is meant to be the prime example of all that is right and good about English men. Quite a load for any actor to bear, but then again so is Mr. Darcy. I knew I would not like JML’s Knightley when he raised his voice repeatedly to Emma in argument in the first Episode. This happens several times later as well, and so when he finally declares to her “Badly done, Emma! Badly done indeed!” in the fourth Episode, all the weight of Knightley’s appropriate disapproval of Emma’s actions is missing. Indeed, the scene at Box Hill was hardly jarring, as Emma’s line to Miss Bates is said in what is clearly jest.

    Perhaps these liberties would be more excusable had I felt any real chemistry between the two leads, but I did not. They had their moments, but they were brief, and left me altogether aware that I was watching this story because I loved Austen and wanted to see a new adaptation, not because I actually cared about its two main characters. Especially tragic were the proposal scene and the very last, added scene at the sea. The proposal was… lackluster. And the seascape showed Emma’s excitement and wonder… and Knightley’s… what? Apparent boredom? He did not look at his wife to see her happiness, he did not hold her closer. (Not that those things would have been best, but there was absolutely something lacking.)

    Also, I find it very hard to believe JML’s Knightley because their seemed a great lack of passion in his character. Austen never wrote dispassionate men, and even sensible Mr. Knightley can be aroused to action and intense emotion when dealing with Emma (hint: see Box Hill; proposal, etc. etc.)

    There were aspects of this production I liked. I liked how the story felt as if it were taking place on a day to day basis. So often costume dramas feel distant from its viewer, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” This seemed as if it were happening right here, right now. And part of that is due to the modernization of body language–however, I draw the line at F. Churchill laying his head in Emma’s lap, or Emma lounging on a sofa, arm sprawled across its top.

    And enjoyed a deeper look into Jane Fairfax’s character. So often she is tucked away behind her reserve that we miss what’s really happening inside. That being said, all of Jane’s worry was a little on the nose. She practically spelled out her situation to Emma so often, and you wonder why Emma doesn’t catch on.

    I liked that F. Churchill was shown to be improper and occasionally unkind, but I feel they were too villainous with his character, and infinitely prefer the BBC’s 1996 Churchill (indeed, he is my favorite part of that production).

    And I liked the look at their childhood’s. And I liked the examination of the things Emma was missing out on while staying at home. I never felt she regretted being with her father at all, but it was nice to see Emma dealing with never leaving Highbury.

    However, all in all, I feel so underwhelmed at this production. I watched an Emma with no sophistication, a Knightley I disliked, and a seeming mislaying of the issues of Society. I understand the want to modernize a tale, but a line must be drawn before Emma becomes Clueless. This is still a story of people living in the 19th Century. Once those rules are established, we then get the privilege to go in and unwind the people behind the actions, to realize that the people in this world are no different than we are, though they may live by different rules. That is, after-all, what makes Austen so timeless.


    • Liann

      I also want to add that Michael Gambon was amazing. Quite frankly I could have watched 4 hours of him and been better pleased.


  12. Reeba


    Is that a description of Mr Knightley or RA?
    Or perhaps ‘grumpy man’ is for Mr Knightley and ‘dazzling smile’ for RA?

    Whatever, but ‘grumpy man’ doesn’t suit Mr Knightley at all!!


    • Ruby

      Haha I was referring to Richard Armitage, which is why a Austenblog time-travelling uprising to place him in the series would resolve that lust, not Knightley lust (which, when I examine my own anyway, is more eee sensible honest bossy man eee). It was a joke about how grumpy looking he is in the beginnings of North and South – although, really, he’s much hotter at the END of North and South, and in his role in the Vicar of Dibley, when it’s heavier on the smile end of things.


  13. Mags

    Not to speak for other people, but those who are saying they wish Richard Armitage had played Mr. Knightley, perhaps they are really saying they didn’t care for the actor who was cast and “hey, that’s a good idea for a replacement.” I don’t think anyone is saying he is the ONLY person who could have played Mr. Knightley.

    As for myself, as I said in the post, since this was not the definitively faithful adaptation I had hoped for (whatever its merits might otherwise be), I don’t really care who played what. Looking forward to the next season of Spooks (which I wouldn’t bother watching otherwise).

    Also feel that I should post a warning, since Gentle Readers are passing around links and insisting on posting download links, please be careful out there. Download at your own risk. Or don’t. Remember it will be out on DVD fairly soon, and on Masterpiece in a couple of months. AustenBlog takes no responsibility for these links, because the Editrix doesn’t have the energy to care. 🙂


  14. Sylvia M.

    Have you watched Emma 2009 yet, Mags? Are you going to write a blog post about your opinion and thoughts on the subject? I always enjoy reading them.


  15. Maria L.

    I can’t get with the fans on this one. For four episodes I found myself cringing far more than smiling. This neither fish-nor-fowl production felt singularly ineffective. Was it modern? No. Was it period? Absolutely not.

    The whole “modernizing” gimmick created a world that was neither believable nor satisfying. Too often it felt like bunch of reality show contestants playing dress-up Regency but never quite getting it right. When Emma was sprawled on that Donwell sofa with her arm flung on the back, I kept thinking she would invite Frank Churchill to join her for a pint at the pub. And when she and Harriet were looking at the book of “romantic riddles” I almost expected to see LOL, ROTFL, smiley faces, and I Heart Mr. Elton scribbled all over it.

    I was relieved that Garai was given a Valium–or perhaps better direction–for some of the last episode. (Although I found it kind of ironic that she was calmest in the one episode that moved at breakneck speed. After the leisurely, almost-boring pace of some of the other episodes, this one sure wrapped things up in a hurry.) But my throw-the-shoe-at-the-monitor moment came when Emma walked into Highbury post-Box Hill looking like a despoiled Tess shunned by the local villagers. Good grief that director made some odd choices! I guess Dickens got his tribute in the intro and it was Hardy’s turn.

    JLM never fully convinced me as Knightley, physically or in any other way. And it bugged me that in the proposal scene, not only did he look as if he’d swallowed something unpleasant, but he really needed a good tailor.

    I think Welch and the director decided that if they threw in chunks of the Austen original, and added pretty costumes and nice houses, that would make us forgive and forget that they tried to turn Austen into a Regency Candace Bushnell. It just didn’t work for me.

    I have to agree that the Divine RA would have been wasted on this hyperactive, ditsy Emma, but then so would any other hot guy actor I can think of.


  16. I tried to avoid reading comments after I saw that pretty much everyone picked apart the first episode while I liked it, but I do have to weigh in at the end.

    The fourth episode seemed to drag a bit for me, but overall I appreciate having another adaptation to compare to the others, and find nuances in the story that I might not have thought about before. Not saying this should be in lieu of reading the actual book…

    I will want to watch it again, in one or two sittings rather than four, though my fave is still the Gywneth/Jeremy movie. And then I will resume praying that someone out there will do Mansfield Park justice because it’s been abused since the ’80’s miniseries! (Stop trying to make Fanny someone she isn’t…)


      • Liann

        Agreed–I thought this newest one with Billie Piper managed to do Fanny’s character the most justice so far, but it was still a fairly painful production to watch.

        OHALSO maybe have Fanny’s hair UP next time, kk? 😛


  17. Sarah Carter

    Episode 4 was in fact a disappointment – the proposal scene was awkward which I put down to the production rather than the acting. Why Knightley was not allowed to take Emma’s arm and press it to his heart as the book said and instead there was this standoff between the two characters and some vey awkward photography as the two finally embraced – it felt very stilted.

    Garai came into her own in this episode and was far less hyper than in previous episodes.

    Still enjoyed it particularly JML but it is frustrating that the two actors were not allowed to shine in the finale – I’ll just have to play it out properly in my head.


  18. StephenB

    After watching the last episode my feeling is that the 2009 version falls somewhat between the Paltrow film (which I did not like, far too slushy, rosy-romantic and dare I say it, Hollywood)and the 1997 ITV/Kate Beckinsale version which had many strengths in both cast and production, except perhaps Andrew Davies’ esratz ending tacked on. In the 2009 version, I felt that the most effective cast members were those playing the Westons (especially Joghi May)and Miss Bates. There was insufficient evident age-gap between the two leads, although Romola Garai still made a fair stab at playing a twenty-year-old (she is 27). I found several of the characters annoying, especially Mr Woodhouse (not Michael Gambon’s fault, but what a tiresome old fool he was portrayed as – as played by Bernard Hepton in the Beckinsale version he was much less obnoxious); Jane Fairfax – the actress lacked the quality of gentility and grace bought by Olivia Williams to the 1997 version; and Mr Elton, who seemed merely a snide fool whereas he should be a gentleman but an unpleasant one. I was undecided about Frank Churchill – not an impressive figure but I felt that some of the character’s undoubted nastiness was well brought out. I liked the fact that the series was filmed in Kent and Surrey and therefore the ‘look’ was appropriate to its correct location in Surrey; it was unfortunate that the exigencies of trying to portray all seasons while filming in a shorter time were not successfully overcome (eg the obvious transition from stock shots of the buildings with real snow before the artificial snow used for the snowball fight). Not to mention those daffodils…As to modern manners, I have no quarrel with a director trying to update; usually this is done by updating the setting too: to do it while keeping the Regency setting was a harder trick to pull off but not wholly unsuccessful. For example, Emma stomping around complaining about Mrs Elton was obviously anachronistic but conveyed very well what she must have felt.
    One last comment – the claims about interest waning. I think that some people probably were dissuaded from watching parts 2-4 by the first episode, but the viewing figures in general are, I think, much more indicative of the general shift away from watching just a few TV channels and having a much more diverse audience with wider interests. Also, viewing figures do not capture new media properly: I have seen all four episodes but on my PC via BBC iPlayer, not a TV.


  19. James the Coachman

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that, even if the sainted author herself had written and directed Emma, there would still have been an army of Janeites complaining about the adaptation.
    For myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series in spite of its occassional faults. RG as Emma was ravishing, funny, lively. At first I thought JLM was too young for Mr Knightley but I changed my opinion by the way the story played out. From the first chapter the book makes it obvious why Emma amd Mr Knightley should marry but it’s not so good at showing why they fall in love. This version is better at this by showing the joshing, shared humour,and familiar companionship all brought into focus by the sublime dance scene.
    So come on Janeites! Get a life, don’t be so anal, enjoy the production for what it is. Chances are that due to market saturation there won’t be another JA production for a while yet.
    P.S. Thanks for asking – yes Hannah enjoyed the series.


    • Claire

      From the first chapter the book makes it obvious why Emma amd Mr Knightley should marry but it’s not so good at showing why they fall in love.

      There’s a reason for this: the book presents us with a series of mysteries to solve, involving Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, Emma Woodhouse, George Knightley, and to a lesser extent, Harriet Smith. Like any good detective novel, the clues are there, but it’s only when the mystery is revealed that the reader sees how they all fit together.

      I couldn’t enjoy this as a literary adaptation because it had nothing of the tight plotting or the wit or the verisimilitude of the original. It verbalised the motives of every character. By this and other means, all drama was sucked out of it. All that was left was a bunch of psychobabble, or fanfiction let loose. I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was because what it was was dull and trite. I firmly believe that viewers tuned out after the first episode out of boredom, because that was certainly my reaction. (I watched as much as I could of the 3rd episode and am trying to face the 4th just to know what everyone here is talking about.)


  20. Sophie

    I absolutely adored it . I am an addict to all films based on Austen’s work (except for the horrible adaptation of Mansfield Park starring Billie Piper) and I found this adaptation quite interesting allthoug a bit too modern at times. I loved Emma and Mr. K but I must asmit that Jeremy Northam still is “my” Mr. K….. And I would have prefered Richard Armitage as Mr. K. in this adaptation. That would have been something…I quite like Romola as Emmaand I will definetely buy the dvd as soon as it’s out:)


    • Natatat

      I completely agree…I personally loved this adaptation, though I can see why others might not. I don’t really have any issues with the casting, except perhaps with Frank Churchill, who I thought was a bit weak. Sorry my post is so late, the series just aired in Canada.


      • StephenB

        Encouraged by this encomium, I looked him up on IMDb. I can see that if I was an impressionable young lady, I might well swoon. But I can’t see him as Knightley. Rather like Clive Owen, he does not have the appearance of a gentleman.


      • Mags

        I would not have thought him right for Mr. Knightley until I saw him in the Vicar of Dibley. A rather different type of character than he usually plays–a very salt of the earth, real person.


    • Janeheiress

      Someone on this site has not seen North & South? It’s not Austen but really, should be required viewing for every period adaptation discussion!


  21. Christy

    I liked the series although I do agree that it is too modern and a bit too removed from the original book. I mean, they could have added more of Austen’s lines so it would have turned out funnier than it was.

    However, it is a new take on Emma and for that, I like it. After three adaptations of Emma, two of which were really good, it’s nice to see something different, a new angle you could say.

    There were definitely ups in this movie, the main one being the amount of time devoted to showing the tension between between Emma and Knightley. I enjoyed all the little fight scenes and the dance scene with the two of them was like something out of a fairytale! I also loved the ending because Emma finally got to see the sea-that was another take that I enjoyed.

    To purists–I say relax! Just enjoy it for what it is and be thankful that people are making Austen movies!


    • Mags

      Casting those with different opinions than yours as “purists” (with the implication that they are somehow not understanding the particular genius of the presentation under discussion) is the kind of thing that really chaps my hide.

      They just have different opinions. They’re allowed. I don’t understand why people are threatened by those with differing opinions, unless they are not comfortable in their own. As Henry Tilney would say, such feelings ought to be investigated, that they may know themselves.

      Speaking for myself, I was hoping, with the BBC imprimatur and four hours to work with, we might FINALLY get a relatively faithful adaptation that captures the wicked humor of the novel as Jane Austen wrote it (and I do believe it’s possible). Since even those who liked the series are saying that’s not what we have, I’m finding it difficult to muster up sufficient interest in yet another almost-but-not-quite adaptation to make time in my very busy schedule to watch illicit downloads, let alone tune into Masterpiece in January. The adaptation may have its merits, but I am not particularly interested in watching it. If they want to make a Generic Period Movie with Modern Flourishes, they should go pick on another author for once.

      I think some of the other regular commenters here are similarly disappointed.

      (Wasn’t someone asking what I thought? That’s what I think. I just don’t care. I’m burned out not only on disappointing adaptations but the stupid arguments over stupid movies.)


      • Ruby

        To be fair to Christy, I don’t think this comment was at all rude or indicative of threatened aggression, and “purist” is generally considered an acceptable term to apply to individuals who are dissatisfied with an adaptation because they wish it were more faithful. It doesn’t have to be a pejorative term, and I don’t think the tone of it even implied censure for the opinion (perhaps you were still irritated by the admittedly rude “get a life” from James the Coachman above?). Her acknowledgement that she would have liked it better had more of Austen’s direct words been included, and that she feels it is removed, casts her advice to “relax” in the tone of someone who found themselves able to remove previous expectation and then enjoy the production on its own terms, as an adaptation. It doesn’t seem to imply that anyone who can’t do that is an idiot, or a philistine, but that she was able to enjoy it because she put aside her own purist/why-in-god’s-name-can’t-they-do-one-that-showcases-my-reading-for-bloody-once impulses (and believe me, we all have them – in North and South, for instance, underneath my love for it is always a little niggling “why is Mr. Bell creepy now auuugh”, and Mansfield Park adaptations I have difficulty enjoying because of my adherence to my beloved book based Fanny).

        People tend to have vehement opinions on all things designed for consumption (I have been known to argue that Tess of the D’Ubervilles should be drop kicked out a window, and Hardy’s corpse punched in the face, immediately after reading it, and that’s without the anonymity of the internet). I think there’s been an equal amount of fire in the responses of both appreciation and displeasure, and so I can’t quite say that either side is exhibiting a fear of differing opinion, or is being unnecessarily harsh more often. If you don’t feel that you could be swayed, and don’t feel the need to watch it, I’m sure that visitors won’t be beating down your door with pitchforks! This is, after all, a site about love and appreciation for Austen, so if you wouldn’t be feeling the love and appreciation skipping a viewing makes sense. 😉

        I’d also like to apologize if anyone was profoundly irritated by me personally being very “yay I enjoy this” in the comments of various Emma posts. Temperance in all things, I suppose!


      • Mags

        It’s unfair of me to pick on Christy, I agree, and speaking for myself, I’ve certainly no objection to anyone enjoying the film, which seems to be made with care and not completely on the cheap; but the “purist” term set me off. Having been at the epicenter of a lot of discussion of a lot of Austen adaptations over the past five and a half years (yes! That’s how long AustenBlog has been around!), the word “purist” has indeed taken on a pejorative aspect in this context. It might not have been meant that way, but more often than not in the discussions on this blog, it is.

        I really have yet to form an opinion on this production other than “can’t be bothered to care.” If we had a bunch of adaptations that were more or less universally agreed to be definitively faithful to the original, I think I would be more open to an “original” “fresh” “modern” (that is, rewritten) adaptation; but we already had a couple of almost-but-not-quite. It would have been nice to have ONE adaptation we can point to as definitive.

        But then, I’ll always have the book. 🙂


    • Cinthia

      I think it is as much as falling in to the extreme to call those who do not like this new adaptation as “purists” as much as in C.19 those who like it have felt offended if someone remarks how modern the dialogue and mannierism have been modernised.

      I still have not finished to watch this new miniseries and that is why I have not expressed my opinion (which usually tends to be hard for the period adaptations, more so if they are BBC miniseries), but I would certainly be offended to be called a purist if I do not like it in the end, because I am not so.

      I do love very much the modernisations from Clueless which is IMHO a brilliant adaptation of Emma passing through Kandukondain Kandukondain (the Indian S&S), Pride and Prejudice Latter Day Comedy, Bride and Prejudice and I am looking forward both Ayesha or Aisha (the name of that film is still appearing with both spellings so I am not certain which is the definite one, the Indian Emma) and From Prada to Nada (formerly Sense and Sensibilidad, the Latino S&S eventhough the new recast leads does not seem as interesting as the previous one [BTW Mags, may I remind you to post the news about it]. So I wonder, Christy and others. With all this information I provided, is it just to call me “purist” if I may not like this new Emma?


  22. Reeba

    @ Ruby
    >This is, after all, a site about love and appreciation for Austen,

    This site, which belongs to Mags, sure is. 😉


  23. Janeheiress

    Whew, just finished it last night! I’m not someone who cares overly much that dialogue is changed, providing the new insertions are good (Sense & Sensibility 1995, anyone?). But this was not the case with Emma 2009. I love North & South, and appreciate Jane Eyre 2006, even while it bothers me how much Sandy Welch changed and modernized (bland-ized?) things. I think the difference between those two and Emma, is that the previous two are all Victorian-repressed-passion-threatening-to-burst-any-moment, while Emma is supposed to be a light, witty comedy. Most of the comedy in this version fell flat. It was disappointing to be reminded of the Gwyneth Paltrow version scene after scene, of how superior the comic timing is in that one–especially when I can’t stand Paltrow’s affected performance! Sandy Welch should really stick to manipulative dramatics, rather than attempting humor.

    Part of that problem was the direction, though. There were a LOT of missed opportunities for visual humor, and if the direction was better some of the dialogue might have come off funnier. In fact, the direction just sucked. There were so many awkward pauses and transitions where the actors looked like they didn’t know what to do with themselves. The pacing plodded–that might have been helped if they’d done a 3 hour production instead of 4. No sense in including every scene from the book if they’re boring to watch on film. It was different from other versions, but didn’t offer much new insight.

    I liked both Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller, although I did have to remind myself a few times to not think of Jeremy Northam. Most of the actors were fine (Harriet Smith was terrible, and Jane Fairfax was meh), but hardly a standout performance for any of them. Oh, and was anyone else annoyed at how many platinum blondes there were? Emma and Harriet’s coloring was exactly the same!

    My verdict on the whole production is: bland, but not terrible. Oh, well. Emma has never been my favorite Austen story anyway. And honestly, having witnessed two Austen revivals, I’m relieved to not have another miniseries to add to my shelf that I’ll never have time to watch.


    • While I had rather the opposite reaction to this production (thought it was very well paced, especially in the last episodes, was astonished by new ways of looking at familiar scenes, Harriet was a standout performance for me, laughed heartily many times, etc.), I do agree about the odd profusion of blondes. Not only Emma and Harriet, but also Mrs. Elton. When they were all three together, I almost thought of singing “Blinded by the blondness” or somesuch. 🙂


      • Janeheiress

        Blinded by the blondness! Yes, exactly! I noticed it, but it didn’t really bother me until Mrs. Elton brought the blonde overload. And although I didn’t think the production was wonderful, I’m glad not everyone shares my opinion. I do agree that the pacing vastly improved in the last two episodes.

        Thinking back over it, my statement that it didn’t offer new insight wasn’t completely true. There were a few scenes that stood out to me. The dinner scene where Emma keeps trying to get Mr. Knightley’s attention was really funny. And I loved the parts where Emma does everything she can to ease the tension at various gatherings, particularly between Mrs. Elton and John Knightley. That hit home to me, because I have to do that quite often when there is tension between my roommates. I usually resort to stupid jokes that certainly don’t reflect well on me, but it’s better than dealing with the angry silences.

        Finally, the Box Hill scene is every hostesses nightmare. Everyone was in a bad mood, and the party just wasn’t getting off the ground. As a person who has never been the life of the party, I am often afraid of hosting anything for fear that no one will have a good time. The planning it takes to make something like that successful–inviting people you know will get along, but restricting it to a manageable number without leaving anyone out–is such a relevant issue even today. It struck me for the first time how much more difficult it was in that situation because Highbury was so isolated, and Emma even more so because of her class. She literally HAD to be friends with the Eltons because she didn’t want to alienate everyone else in her circle. Even worse for Jane Fairfax, who didn’t have any apparent friends. Anyway, I could easily identify with Frank and Emma’s tragic attempts to start a lively conversation.

        Sorry for the ramble, but I just realized this book is due for a reread!


      • I’m glad you allow me my happiness with this production – for I shall not apologize for it! But I’m glad for your considered response to both the series and my reply – very kind of you.

        The biggest new insight for me was Mr. Knightley’s farewell before he goes to London. I knew that he was going to be indifferent, and that he thought Emma was going to be engaged to Frank at any moment – but it had never really hit home to me how despairing that would make him. Miller’s expression and acting really brought that home to me, and I am very grateful for it.

        Great thoughts about Box Hill – for me, it’s so agonizing precisely because the kinds of relationships and social constraints are so true today – I know I’ve often found myself trying to keep the mood lively, and making a fool of myself or offending or hurting someone.

        And hey, Emma’s always worth a reread! It is, after all, a great novel by a great author! And if it takes an adaptation you didn’t like (or did like) to spur you on to it, I say that adaptation has done the best thing it could have – inspired a new look at the source! 🙂


  24. Ansubel

    I posted this in a thread relating to episode 3 rather than the whole series, so apologies if you’ve seen it before..
    Gosh, I’ve read so many different viewpoints on BBC’s recent Emma series in these blogs! Have to say I’m sorry that it doesn’t seem to have hit the mark for some people (maybe the most vociferous!)as I thoroughly enjoyed it! With all due respect to the traditionalists (I won’t call them pendants!), I think its important to take a broad view of this new series. Jane Austin wrote Emma as a satire with significant comic elements, and I think that this production and casting captures that really well. I very much like the protrayal of Mr Knightley by Jonny Lee Miller – pretty much how I imagined from the book. Romola Garai’s change from slightly manic, frivolous Emma to the chastened post-Box Hill Emma is finely drawn, and even knowing the story, I was still moved to tears by the emotional tension in the proposal scene.
    JA uses the story to highlight the poor lot of women in the nineteenth century: it comes over well in this series that Emma, with all her apparent wealth and privilege, is so limited in what she can do and who she can mix with, in a way which is incomprehensible for us in the 21st century – that’s why Frank Churchill’s arrival in Highbury is such a big event! If JA were alive, I’m sure she wouldn’t expect dramatisations of her novel to be ‘pickled in aspic’ by sticking rigidly to all period details, but would be delighted that her story of the human condition still appeals nearly 200 years later!


  25. GLangdon

    I too enjoyed this version of Emma; it was different and perhaps not so “true” to Jane Austen’s time, but it emphasized points often overlooked. I thought the depiction of Emma as a wealthy, young, not-quite-pretty girl was creditable and, for the first time, writers and producers took an interest in the side of her that felt confined and restricted – she’d never been away from Highbury, even to visit her sister in London while in confinement. It’s very easy to portray Emma as sophisticated as she holds an enviable position in Highbury society, but there was another part of her that is too often overlooked. Anyhow, that was just my thought as I watched the mini-series. I wish it had been just a little longer so that perhaps they could have included more of Austen’s dialogue, but I was very happy with the end result and believe it to be a version worth watching. As for Mr. Knightly, JLM played him not quite so light as Jeremy Northam and not quite so heavy as Mark Strong – I actually thought he got it right. He came across as an individual, often slightly eccentric figure, with light moments and heavy moments at the right times. The only thing I had doubts about with regards to the portrayal was the transparency with which they showed his increasing feelings for Emma. I do have one question I am hoping someone can answer – I have not read Emma for a number of years now (unlike P&P and Persuasion which I regularly pick-up); where in the book does Mrs. Bates begin speaking again. I tried to find it in the book after the show ended last night and couldn’t locate it. It’s been bothering me as a part of me always wondered how the Bates’ ended up at the end. When I first read it ages ago, I think I sort of assumed that Jane would be either taking care of them, or supplementing their income. I simply can’t remember. Does anyone know? Does Mrs. Bates really start talking again a tthe end of the book as she did in this recent mini-series?


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