Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Dear Masterpiece Classic,
I'm not sure where to begin, because your offenses are many. The local PBS station has been broadcasting your most recent batch of Dickensian tales as well as the adaptations of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, among other things.
Since the list of crimes against English Literature is so long, I think I'll start with the tragic mishandling of Oliver Twist. I admit in advance that I'm not fond of Dickens; I like badly done Dickens even less, and after no less than three errors, each of which was graver than the last, in the first ten minutes of the miniseries, I was obliged to turn off the television. In the first ten minutes the errors are these: 1. Oliver Twist's mother arrives at the orphanage about to pop. Dickens does not introduce Oliver's mother as anything more than a memory shared by the most odious Mr. Bumble and his cohort. Mention is made of a letter and a locket, but the unfortunate woman isn't actually seen, and certainly not on page one of the book.
2. Oliver is immediately set up as a troublemaker during the scene with the famous "Please, sir, I want some more". This is achieved by the boy taking the initiative and approaching the adults to demand a second helping of whatever glop the orphans are fed. What happened to the drawing of lots to determine which orphan would be given this task? That's blooper number two, and it's a biggie.
3. There is no board of directors before which Oliver is dragged by the unscrupulous Mr. Bumble. Dickens didn't write it, therefore they don't exist, therefore they shouldn't be in the miniseries. Oliver's confrontation with them and the veiled threat that God Seeth Thou only further develops to his role as a troublemaker.
At that point, I turned off the television and fumed. And then I remembered what you'd done to Jane Eyre. And then I decided to blog about it.
Shame on you, Masterpiece Classic! Fie and shame! You're a British production, you're producing films based on English Literature, and this is the best you can do? I'm ashamed for you and I hope the ghost of Alistaire Cooke comes and pinches your collective toe in the middle of the night for this bad behavior.


1 comment:

Rachael said...

I hear you. I've seen that Oliver Twist before. Since I've never read that particular Dickens novel, I don't know how inaccurate it is, but wow, it sounds like it's pretty bad. For itself, I remember liking it all right... The only Dickens (other than A Christmas Carol) that I've read I haven't seen the movie version of - that being A Tale of Two Cities.

But, yeah, it's annoying when they get things so wrong in adaptations.