[WARNING: SPOILERS!] Sorry for the slightly belated post, but I finally had a chance to watch the miniseries based on J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, and for the most part I thought it was quite good. What got my attention from the first moment, and kept it throughout, was the way the show used beautiful visuals of idyllic rural England and deliberately contrasted them with the less-than-idyllic things happening in the characters’ lives. There’s so much going on in the novel – so many characters, for one thing – that it was inevitable that some things get cut in the transition to screen; for the most part I thought these decisions were made well and thoughtfully. The cut character whose story I missed most was Gavin, and I thought it was sad that Sukhvinder’s important story was so reduced, but they were both fairly isolated and in their heads in the novel, so these cuts are understandable.
One character whose presence was increased rather than reduced, however, was Barry Fairbrother himself – the show spent more time with him before his death than did the book, and after his death the audience got to know him even better via flashbacks, primarily Krystal’s. Barry and Krystal had a closer relationship in the miniseries – I honestly couldn’t tell whether the show was trying to hint that he might be her father – and that went along with the show’s attempt to make Krystal more likeable and sympathetic in a straightforward way. I understand why they did that, but I preferred the more complicated character in the books. In addition to Barry’s closer, more direct tie to the Weedon’s, the miniseries also made him Simon Price’s brother and Andrew’s uncle, and I really enjoyed the little we saw of that relationship before Barry’s death.
The ending of the miniseries was somewhat less tragic and more hopeful than the book – for one thing, Robbie survives, and Krystal dies accidentally while trying to save him, rather than deliberately killing herself because she blames herself for her brother’s death. And several other characters – Mary, Andrew, Gaia – had their stories end on hopeful, “getting a new start” notes; while I had no problem with any of these specific endings, the focus on them rather than more prominent but less sympathetic characters like the Mollisons or Walls did feel a bit unearned.
It’s always interesting to see how channels in different countries market things, and this is no exception: The HBO trailer for the Casual Vacancy miniseries is way more dramatic and “edgier” than the BBC ones were, and focuses on this (fake) ghost storyline that I don’t think the BBC marketing emphasized at all. The miniseries will premiere in the US on April 29th.
I’m always interested to hear about people’s writing processes in general and book-to-screen adaptations in particular, so I was delighted to see this BBC interview with Sarah Phelps about adapting J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for TV. Phelps has previously written for EastEnders as well as some other literary adaptations, including Great Expectations; according to IMDb, she’s working on a miniseries adaptation of Christie’s And Then There Were None, so that’s something to look forward to.
Phelps talks about her process, Rowling’s involvement, and more. I particularly liked this bit about characters:
When I think about characters I imagine them walking into a room – how do they carry their weight? Who do they look at? Are their shoulders straight or slumped, do they want to be seen or ignored? Where have they just come from? What was going on? What are they thinking about right this moment? What is the secret that they just can’t tell? And then suddenly they open their mouth and there they are talking.
Good news! We’ve got an air date for the miniseries based on The Casual Vacancy. HBO will premiere it on April 29th and 30th. Of course, the U.K. gets it first – it premieres on the BBC this month – but hey, at least we have a definite date now. Can’t wait!
Ooh, this trailer and clip made me very excited to read and see The Casual Vacancy, though I will admit that Julia McKenzie bringing news of a death makes my mind immediately go to Miss Marple. This is going to be a slightly edgier take on village life, though . . . The Casual Vacancy is a miniseries based on the novel by J.K. Rowling, and it will premiere on the BBC on February 15th. No air date yet in the U.S. yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
The BBC/HBO miniseries adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy has cast Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, Rory Kinnear, Monica Dolan, Julia McKenzie, Abigail Lawrie, Rufus Jones, Keeley Forsyth, Simon McBurney, Richard Glover, Marie Critchley, and Michelle Austin.
Good news for American J.K. Rowling fans: HBO will co-produce the already-announced BBC miniseries version of Rowling’s adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. Rowling is an executive producer, and the adaptation will be written by Sarah Phelps. Here’s a description:
The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s follow-up to the Harry Potter series, centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind its pretty facade, however, is a town at war: rich at war with the poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands and teachers at war with their students.
Anyone a fan of the book? I loved The Cuckoo’s Calling but haven’t read this one yet.