So PBS is airing the BBC’s remake of BBC’s 1970s mini/limited-series ‘Poldark.’ ‘Poldark,’ is the epic tale of Captain Ross Poldark, set during that other highly romanticized period of the late 1700s in Cornwall, England who wins, loses, redeems, gets stolen from and triumphs over. Basically the stuff that epic tales run on.
This adaption, like the previous one, is based on the ‘Poldark’ series of historical fiction written by Winston Graham. Unlike the previous series, advances in technology have made certain exterior shots possible in 2015 , that were at best too expensive and too laborious and at worst too much of a pipe dream to be done in 1975 and 1977.
In essence, the tech advances of 2015 allows for the landscape of Cornwall-known to most American audiences as the place where the Pirates of Penzance take place or where the tv series that also airs on PBS ‘Doc Martin’ is set-to share top billing with ‘nuPoldark’s’ star, Aidan Turner.
I’ve seen the original series on Netflix with Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark long before I even had an inkling that it was being remade. I liked it well enough. I didn’t find myself being hung up on the cinematography conventions of the 1970s, which called for lots of extreme closeups and which made clear what was filmed in a studio (usually tape) and what was filmed on location outdoors (usually film).
Robin Ellis, who cooks and acts here and again, is in nuPoldark. He portrays Rev. Halse in this adaption. Much has been made of the fact that both Poldarks are in this productions.
So has the fact that the screenwriters for this adaption as well as Aidan Turner did not watch the original series, but revisited the Winston Graham novels on which both series are based. Hence this remake is not a “rehash” of the previous series.
So $64,000 question time: Why am I not going to watch 21st century ‘Poldark’?
It basically again tracks back to the fact that PBS, especially those in certain markets, seem to think that the way they’ll compete against Netflix and cable channels is to continue to be an imitation of the poor man’s/broadcast tv’s BBCAmerica. The problem I have with this especially as it relates the drama programming is that much like American history, British history has many different facets-granted not all of them pretty. There are so many other stories about the different cultures which make up the Britain’s tapestry that can and should be told. Endlessly providing stories that showcase one POV/one experience (and an overly romanticized one at that) illustrates shortsightedness and an inability to evolve.
I mean, in five years or ten years or even five months, will we see yet another adaptation of Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice or Upstairs, Downstairs (which despite clamoring to the contrary, ‘Downton Abbey’ is a reimagining of) or Great Expectations or [insert the name of any ] Shakespeare work?
Or will we see an adaption of a work that gives us a pov not often seen, a classic work in print-currently or in the past-deserving of an adaptation?
My hope is the latter. Especially because it would allow PBS to live up to its motto of “Being More.”