I can't say that I'm actually over-enthusiastic about it as a piece of television drama. I know I watched it way back when it was first broadcast in 1981 and I read the book, but I have to say the characters are so arrogant and hateful I can't say they exactly draw you in. They are all self-centred, don't exactly show any redeeming features and are not particularly likeable. The central character, Charles Ryder, the narrator and played by Jeremy Irons, is so totally boring that you can't latch on to him at all. He goes about being to ally miserable all the time. He's supposed to be a painter but he's not very convincing. Who would bother hiring him? Sebastian, the character played by Anthony Andrews, is an interesting character, but he doesn't have to work as he's got money, presumably from being a aristocrat. He drinks himself stupid. Who would employ him anyway? None of the characters have to work, which is one reason I can't possibly engage with any of them. I have to say that the filming, direction and settings are excellent, but I can't imagine this series being produced with such a lavish style in the early part of the 21st century. It has a very downbeat ending to it and not exactly leaving you with a feeling that any of the characters find happiness in any way shape or form.
There is another connection I have, although vaguely with 'Brideshead Revisited.' I mentioned earlier that I had worked on 'A Voyage Round My Father' at Greenwich. During the run of the play, there was much talk of it transferring to the West End. It did eventually make it to the West End, but I don't think it was the same production and if so it had a different cast. I know that Alec Guinness played the central character of the Father, and if memory serves he did come to see the Greenwich production which had Mark Dignam playing the Father. Laurence Olivier came to see it and came back-stage after the performance. He played Lord Marchmaine in 'Brideshead, although he doesn't actually have a major part and is only in two episodes, when Sebastian takes Charles to Venice and in the final episode when Lord Marchmaine returns to England and there he has a somewhat long and drawn-out death. I remember when I first saw the series in the 1980's this episode, which runs for 90 minutes did seem a little over-long. But I can at least say I have been in the same room with Laurence Olivier, although not to speak to! Much later on Thames Television did a new television version of 'A Voyage Round My Father' and Oliver was in that. Another actor from "Voyage" has a small part in "Brideshead Revisited," John Nettleton, who played the commanding officer at the beginning and the end of the series, from the time that Charles Ryder, played by Jeremy Irons, revisits Brideshead Castle when he is an army officer and billeted at the house at the beginning of the Second World War. And I did notice in the closing credits that an actor I worked with at Ipswich Theatre in the 1970's, Stephen Mallatratt, had a minor role. He went on to adapt the Susan Hill book "The Woman In Black for the stage and which has become a huge hit in the West End and on tour. He wrote scripts for many television series including "Coronation Street."
Compared to current television dramas it's light years ahead of, say Downton Abbey. I have seen one episode and I can't see what all the fuss is about. Not particularly engaging characters and the story lines don't convince. I think the big problem Carol and I have is that there are far too many adverts on I.T.V. I think within an hour's running time you get three breaks which is every 20 minutes. It's actually better to record on Sky+ and then when the advertising breaks come up just fast-forward through the commercials. I realise that it's these commercials that pay for programming on I.T.V., but when it's for such things as car insurance and sofas, then it does get incredibly boring. And can someone explain why these sofa companies are always having sales? We watched something else the other evening and there were no less than three adverts all for sofa companies?
Why is it that so much of television today gives me a headache? I don't mean the subject-matter so much as the fact that directors insist on using some really headache-inducing camera techniques,
what they call 'whip-pans' and something which makes me feel positively sick, where you have a couple of actors standing still and the camera spins around them? What on earth is that all about? You get things chopped up in the editing suite so you get a lot of very brief 'clips' and it's hard to make out what it is. Another is when they insist on having the actors walking along and the camera follows them, but instead of it being a smooth 'dolly shot' where the camera runs along a specially-constructed track, you get a really horrible wobbly hand-held camera shot which makes you feel queasy. Not nice. Well, none of this seems to be used in the making of 'Brideshead Revisited.' I presume it was made when such techniques weren't used much. Is it because these unpleasant filming techniques are a way to cut costs? No reason can I give except that it's 'trendy' or 'arty.' Actually means that I'm not going to endure the show and just turn off or find something else to watch. it seems that producers treat their audience with a great deal of contempt because everything seems to be in short time spans, that is, scenes are short as if the audience can't concentrate on anything for no more than a couple of minutes at a time. This was true of things like 'EastEnders' (which, incidentally, I can't stand as it's full of such hateful characters who are always falling out with each other and always shouting. Not good for one's nerves. Just not enjoyable viewing.) where you have several concurrent story lines and they keep on switching between them and you never know exactly what is going on unless you watch regularly. Then there's the drama series adapted from a novel or something and instead of adapting it in sufficient episodes to make it worthwhile watching it's done in perhaps two or there when perhaps six or even more episodes would be better. No doubt this is because of budgetary constraints. This was evident a few years ago when they did a series based on 'South Riding' which was done in three episodes and the plot line was telescoped so much into the timeframe it was incomprehensible. None of this occurs with 'Brideshead Revisited.' In some ways it's incredibly slow and there are whole episodes where virtually nothing happens, but at least there is some character development. I know there is a newer, film, adaptation of 'Brideshead' but it makes me wonder how on earth you can telescope so much story into a running time of about 90 minutes without it seeming rushed. Well, with the vast running time of the Granada version of the book there is definitely space for the story to develop along with the characters.