Sanditon: Episodes 1 and 2

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We are on record as not being terribly excited about this series, but we must admit we are very curious about it. It is for all intents and purposes fan fiction, and we like fan fiction as a concept; however, we do not like all works of fan fiction, judging each upon its merits. So it remains to be seen whether or not we will enjoy this particular work of fan fiction. We swear we are keeping an open mind.

After all, it is always a reason for celebration when Herself is made prominent in popular culture. And we are truly interested to hear what our Gentle Readers think of it. So we invite you to take this post as a place to share your opinions and comments on Episode One. Dorothy has made strong green tea (for those unafraid it will take away the use of their right side), weak cocoa, and toast, and has determined to look away if anyone adds a little extra butter to their slice.

(Title edited as it was actually two episodes.)

17 thoughts on “Sanditon: Episodes 1 and 2

  1. So…I have really mixed feelings. Parts of it I liked; for instance, Sir Edward Denham was quite dastardly but I feel like he was even smarmier in the book. Also where is his plot to kidnap Clara? I also liked Tom Parker and his wife. The scene where Tom explains his plans for Sanditon to Charlotte was lovely.

    Pretty much everyone else I didn’t like. I was really unhappy with the portrayals of Arthur and Diana Parker, who are really funny in the book and aren’t given time or scope here, which is unfortunate. They are not main characters but are comic genius.

    And I kind of hope Clara Brereton and Esther Denham fall off a cliff trying to push each other off it. What completely unpleasant characters, and way, way over the top.

    Also, as I said on Twitter, changing Charlotte’s personality seems like cheating to me. The barest outlines of Austen’s story are here. And it’s fan fiction, and I’m not writing it, so I have no control over what the author does with the characters. But when you are playing in Jane Austen’s sandbox, play by her rules. If you’re just going to change everyone’s personality anyway, write an original story.

    Will I watch next week? Yes, I remain sufficiently curious to do so. But if it wasn’t, however tenuously, associated with Jane Austen I would have peaced out about half an hour into it. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just not my cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LynnS

      I reread Sanditon once I saw this to get rid of the bad taste it left. I agree with you, Margaret. Austen had already established character and strong plot beginnings, why oh why can’t people stick to it and let us see how the book would have actually played out. I am especially sad about Sidney who seemed to be a Tilney-type hero and is now a rude, condescending bully.

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  2. Beth

    I agree with everything you’ve said. Other than borrowing the names and settings from Austen, there is very little about this in common with what she wrote.

    Arthur and Diana Parker were brilliantly written but here they come off as just over-the-top fools, especially Arthur.

    And while Theo James is an outstandingly handsome Sydney, he’s so completely rude and awful that I mostly just want to slap his his smug, chiseled face.

    The Denham step siblings are creepy in the extreme although I do adore Esther’s Gothic-inspired wardrobe.

    Tom Parker and his wife are lovely. The scene where Charlotte takes an interest in helping him organize his paperwork and he gladly accepts and doesn’t patronize her, was one of my favorites.

    On its own merits, I do like it and am engaged enough to continue watching. But any resemblance to actual Austen is purely coincidental.

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  3. There was a lot of material to work with in those twelve chapters Jane Austen wrote but even the characters were so changed it was hard to recognize them! Sir Edward was pretty devoted to Clara in the book and yet here he and his sister and Clara are just so dramatic and creepy! Even the delightful Parkers have their characters just sort of passed over. I reread Jane Austen’s fragment today and it is delightful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It *is* delightful, isn’t it? I have long believed that it would be the last novel Austen wrote “By a Lady” had she lived to finish it, because the public would demand to know the name of this genius. (Though really the word was already out by then. Even the Prince Regent knew her name.)

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  4. I thought it was *shockingly* terrible — not just that it wasn’t Jane Austen, but that on its own terms, it was dull, unconvincing, badly written, and poorly acted. I wouldn’t have believed it was by Andrew Davies if his name weren’t on the credits. I was truly all astonishment.

    People kept doing and saying things that it was impossible to believe they would really do. Charlotte tells near-stranger Sidney that Tom — his brother! Her host! Whom she likes! — is neglecting his family? Sidney yells at and insults near-stranger Charlotte, not once but twice? Lady Denham urges her nephew to court Miss Lambe and then, roughly ten minutes later, publicly insults and humiliates her, in part by demanding to know whether she’ll marry him? (Way to quash that courtship before it gets started!) Lord Something-or-Other, who seems to have a sincere and honorable romantic interest in Esther, tells her, on their second meeting, that he’d love to brush her hair? (I’m no stickler for historical accuracy in these things, but that’s something a 19th-century man wouldn’t say to a woman he didn’t know well unless he viewed her as little better than a prostitute.) Meanwhile, none of the dialogue is witty or incisive, and people keep delivering The Message in clumsy bits of exposition: “This Is All About Marrying Money.”

    And of course, there are the neglected opportunities to include actual, hilarious Austenian material: Sir Edward’s Lovelace obsession, Lady Denham’s modest class origins and social climbing, Diana’s ineffectual scheming to get the girls’ school to Sanditon. But I’d forgive all that if we were getting a melodrama that was fun and juicy in its own right. So far, at least, we’re definitely not. I will, however, watch the rest, because I am an Austen completist. Thus proving that ITV was right to slap JA’s name on this disaster.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really miss Sir Edward’s Lovelace obsession (especially since I’m participating in #Clarissa2020, reading the letters that make up the novel in real time–on the dates they are written). And Diana and Arthur are really relegated to the background.

      Things I agree with: Lady Denham telling Sir Edward to marry the heiress Miss Lambe. I think Austen intended for that to happen. A lot of the other stuff, not so much.

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      • I don’t have a problem with Lady Denham telling Edward to court Miss Lambe; I have a problem with Lady Denham gratuitously sabotaging her own stated objective for no discernible reason. That scene’s only function seemed to be letting viewers know that Our Heroine is 21st-century woke, and other characters aren’t.

        I wonder what JA planned for Miss Lambe? Maybe we’re better off not knowing: if JA had made her sole non-white character lazy, vulgar, greedy, stupid, or vain — in other words, a typical JA caricature — that might have felt fairly uncomfortable for modern readers, especially if she’d sprinkled the portrait with the racial equivalent of “large fat sighings”-type language. We know JA was opposed to slavery (or, at least, liked Thomas Clarkson’s work) but that’s not the same thing as believing in the social equality of the races. We’d like to think Our Author held thoroughly modern views of such things, but maybe she didn’t.

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        • I wonder what Austen intended for Miss Lambe, too. I don’t think it was to be, as you said, a woke replacement for Georgiana Darcy. And yes, I suspect this is Davies’ fan fiction of teen Georgiana Darcy acting out prior to and during l’affaire Wickham, prior to when we meet her in P&P. I found all the many P&P echoes extremely annoying. As delightful as P&P is, #SheWroteFiveOtherBooks

          My book group recently read the book A Woman of Colour, written and published in JA’s lifetime, about an heiress, the daughter of a rich white plantation owner and an enslaved African woman, an orphan like Miss Lambe. The introduction to the book stated that it was extremely popular in Austen’s lifetime, so it’s very possible she read it and was inspired by it. The story itself is not great, but it gives a lot of food for thought and I very much had Miss Lambe in mind while I was reading it. So while I don’t mind this adaptation addressing race–and an adaptation of Sanditon in 2019-2020 absolutely should do so–I don’t think it was done well at all. I think Austen intended something deeper and more subtle.

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  5. Joan Doyle

    I was disappointed that Jane Austen’s name wasn’t included with the title.
    I also agree with you that the Denham step-siblings are creepy & that all the humor that Jane put into Arthur & Diana Parker is lost. I hope it improves on further episodes.

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  6. Once I got over thinking that JA had anything to do with it and realized that it was really Andrew Davies’ Racy Regency Sex Romp, it amused me. From my professional viewpoint as a dance historian, the dancing in the first episode, though jolly and fun-looking, was historically inaccurate in the extreme, as was the curiousness of having an Irish band (bodhran, fiddle, flute) plus an Irish singer lilting lustily away in Irish, resident in a southern England resort. Perhaps they were the remnants of an Irish outpost long forgotten by historians? Or perhaps there is a mysterious land bridge between England and Ireland so that you don’t have to take a ship? Perhaps English and Irish tunes and language are really the same?

    Of course, Charlotte would not wear those blue boots in the ball-room–one wishes, however, that she would have taken advantage of having them on to stamp on the very disagreeable Sydney’s toes. (Dear writers, Mr Rochester not withstanding, Rudeness does not equate to Sexiness or Romantic Desirability) —Back to the dancing: I find increasingly that these movies are becoming a palimpsest; writers, directors and choreographers do not appear to be taking the trouble to actually read the original work or do research–they simply look at an old movie and say, “Hey, I’ll just update that dance scene in the Paltrow version of Emma and make it look even jollier.”

    The thing that I really cannot forgive is that the show is not funny. However, with cross-dressing, incest, male nudity, the Ahem! moment in the woods, and the Divine Magic of the Push-Up-Wonder-Corset, which makes some damsels’ bosoms look as if they are dependent from their earlobes, in the first episode alone, one wonders what more can happen in the remaining seven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering what you would have to say about the dancing. LOL

      And no, they don’t care about historical accuracy. They purposely ignore it. Just once I’d love to see an Austen adaptation just lovingly done with everything correct they way they did Master and Commander or Downton Abbey, where the historical accuracy was praised, whereas with Austen it’s scorned as “chocolate box.”

      Also agree with the lack of funny. The scenes with the Parker siblings (particularly Diana, the absent Susan, and Arthur) are fall-down hilarious and they’re just gone for nonsense and DRAMAAAAAHHHHH. Austen’s novels (with the exception, perhaps, of Mansfield Park) should be adapted as romantic comedies and they would be a lot more accepted by the tar-hearted purist spinster etc. Janeites (M. Sullivan, Spinster-in-Charge) I have hopes of the upcoming Emma adaptation at least giving us a few laughs that are actually intentional.

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      • LynnS

        Oh the dancing! Don’t get me started. My subtitles identified the language as Gaelic and I don’t know enough of either Gaelic or Irish to tell the difference. While my little dancer heart was personally thrilled hearing puirt à beul, I ‘m fairly certain that Gaelic would have been considered barbarous and have offended the English guests at a ball.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jasmine

    Looks very gritty and modern for a Jane Austen adaptation. Can’t wait for it to screen in Australia, I’ve been missing a new Jane Austen tv drama.

    Like

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