It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single person in possession of a telly, must be in want of a cracking literary adaptation. So said Jane Austen in 1797, or at least, something along those lines.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a lovely, literary period drama, then you needn’t look any further. Even if you’ve already seen this absolute classic, it’s time for a re-watch, trust us. The Beeb are fairly dependable when it comes to reimagining the classics, but by Bennet, they smashed it with this one.
The story of Lizzie and her wayward sisters is one we all know, whether through the enforcement of the UK curriculum, or the many – maybe even too many – telly, film, theatre and zombiefied versions of the story. In fact, this onslaught of Austen may well have put you off dipping your toe into the Pemberley pool, for fear of accidentally letting in a terrible adaptation. But you’re in safe hands with this 1996 series, which if you ask us, is the best of them all. That’s probably down to two things; the fact that they stayed loyal to Austen’s sassy satire; and that it’s got one of the best casts around. Colin Firth as a cold-hearted Darcy? Perfect. Jennifer Ehle as a mucky-booted Lizzie? Impeccable. But the cherry on the Lydia’s Gretna Green wedding cake has got to be Alison Steadman, playing the nervous and neurotic Mrs Bennet.
In The New York Times John J O’Connor called it a “splendid adaptation with a remarkably faithful and sensitively nuanced script” – we’re pleased the TV critics have spiced the writing style up a bit in the last twenty-odd years. After seeing preview in 1995, The Independent’s Gerard Gilbert said: “As far as TV adaptations of literary classics go… this is probably as good as it gets.” And the praise keeps coming – another New York Times article in 2016 said the series “gave birth to a Jane Austen cottage industry big enough to include faithful adaptations of the Austen oeuvre, sculptures of Mr. Firth and zombie Janes.” If you ask us, you can skip all that nonsense, and just watch this old gem.
First shown January 1996.