Bleak House was first published in 19 monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853. The BBC TV adaptation, written by the award-winning Andrew Davies, comprised a one-hour opening episode followed by 14 half-hour episodes back in 2005.
It has now come to my house on Blu Ray and the quality is superb.
This has a stellar and somewhat surprising cast with Anna Maxwell Martin, Carey Mulligan, the wonderful Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, brilliant Charles Dance and Alun Armstrong along side Phil Davies, Alistair McGowan, Johnny Vegas, Pauline Collins, Matthew Kelly and even Lisa Tarbuck…and it all works fantastically!
From Nigel Stafford-Clark ‘Bold. Fresh. Imaginative” said the BBC’s Head of Drama, Jane Tranter. She was talking about adapting Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Andrew Davies and I had collaborated successfully on two Trollope adaptations, The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right.
Now we had been asked by the BBC if we wanted to have a go at Dickens’ Bleak House. But Jane wanted a new approach, something unexpected, rather than the well-established routine of ‘four hours on Sunday nights at 9pm’. The idea came while I was leafing through the book’s introduction. Bleak House was written to be serialised in twenty parts – one a month. Why not mirror Dickens’ original concept – twenty parts, half-an-hour each? Run them twice a week before the watershed. Bring Dickens back to the mainstream popular audience he was writing for’.
WIth casting it was “She lives in London. It’s not out the question.” Our casting director Kate Rhodes James was talking about Gillian Anderson, known to millions as Scully in The X-Files. We had seen her performance in Terence Davies’ period feature The House of Mirth. She would be perfect for Lady Dedlock, one of the key roles. But how to penetrate the cordon of managers and agents that normally surround a major American star to protect them from doing anything so foolish as British television?
Encouraged by Kate, we sent her the script. Encouraged, rather than discouraged, by her agent, Gillian read it and said yes. We were elated. Our elation was short-lived. There were still eighty five parts to cast. Forty of them were principal characters. If we were serious about bringing Dickens back to a mainstream popular audience, we needed to include actors with whom that audience would feel familiar.
I cannot speak highly enough of this adaptation and you can read it online here