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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Recent Reading . . . and Some Writing . . . Part 2

I mentioned in the last post how I was influenced by radio drama for my selection of reading material. I suppose the same could be said of what I watched on television. The first big drama adaptation I remember was 'The Forsyte Saga" which would have been one of the really big serial adaptations done by the BBC in the early 1960's and I think opened on the new channel BBC 2. We didn't have BBC 2 at the start of it's broadcast in 1964 as you had to buy a special set as it was in 625-lines as all other channels were 405-line and you had to have a duel set that could receive the new channel as well as having a special ariel which we didn't have, so I would have had to wait a few years later for this series to be shown on BBC 1, perhaps around 1967-8. I read all the novels, written by John Galsworthy. I think there must have been around 9 or 10 books and the television adaptation ran for some 26 episodes. I cannot imagine a television adaptation running to that many episodes today. Something like 'Downton Abbey' runs for no more than 8 episodes a series, although the next series, the last, will be the 6th. 

The B.B.C., in all it's infinite wisdom, always showed some sort of adaptation of a 'worthy' classical novel at teatime on a Sunday during the 1960's, and over the years many Dickens adaptations were shown. I don't know why they imagined that Charles Dickens would be suitable for children, but I suppose it was aimed at what you'd call a 'family' audience. Today if they do an adaptation of a classic novel, Dickens, Austen, Eliot or whoever, they schedule it much later and as a result the productions are a good deal more hard-hitting. These productions were also done in much longer runs, say 12-13 episodes, which actually suits a Dickens as the novels were originally published in serial form. Today you'd be lucky if a production is 4 episodes or even less. I remember as a child they did 'Great Expectations' (and there have been numerous versions done over the years since.) and being terrified by the opening sequence where Magwitch, the escaped convict, meets the young and innocent Pip in the churchyard. I think I would have been as terrified in much the same way as Pip. I got to read the novel and from that began to read further Dickens novels. In the early days of Channel 4, around 1982, the year it opened, they showed a television version of the R.S.C. stage adaptation of "Nicholas Nickleby". It was done on stage in two parts and the running time was something like 8-9 hours. A truly memorable version. I read the book before it was shown on television. I am again reading "Nicholas Nickleby" and enjoying it very much. It is so full of some wonderful characters and, although you might say that Dickens does somewhat 'over-egg the pudding' with some of his writing, and it's not particularly fashionable, but it cracks along at a fair old pace and you can't call it boring in any way. It's hard to believe that Dickens was in his 20's when he  wrote it and also that it was published in episodic form, which makes me wonder how much he had planned the storyline in advance and how, once the episodes were published, did he wish he could go back and alter bits of the story? Also, he was writing the next novel, which I believe was "The Old Curiosity Shop," which would have overlapped "Nicholas Nickleby." It must have been very complicated to have two novels being written and published concurrently. No doubt he had started writing "Nicholas Nickleby" as the previous novel, "Oliver Twist" was being written and published. The thought doesn't bear thinking about. He must have been very organised.

I worked on an episode of "Sherlock Holmes", one of the Granada series which was made during the 1980s, when I did a lot of 'walk-on' work. It was "The Man With The Twisted Lip" and shot in King's Lynn. As a result of that I decided to read some of the stories and had a complete volume of the stories (since lost) but I now have an annotated set of volumes which has been edited by Leslie S. Klinger. I have been working my way through the stories gradually (not completed as yet.) The Granada series is being repeated on one of the digital television stations we can get through Sky (I think it is ITV Encore, which shows a lot of back-catalogue shows, including "Downton Abbey.") So I am able to see the stories in really good adaptations, although I must say some of the acting is somewhat 'over-the-top.' I'm not over-keen on the modern version of the Conan Doyle stories, "Sherlock" which stars Benedict Cumberbatch. I'm  afraid I prefer the original stories and don't like them being fiddled about with. I did see the first series and quite enjoyed them but the last series, for me, was a disappointment. I won't be watching the next series which is due out around Christmas.
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