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North and South: BBCAmerica does Masterpiece Theatre


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#1

choochi

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Posted Jul 4, 2005 @ 8:05 PM

Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (no, not the one with Patrick Swayze!) aired on BBCAmerica over the weekend and it was delightful. This is the type of programming I expected when I got BBCA. I loved Masterpiece Theater's adaptation of Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. North and South is the story of young woman who moves from southern England to a northern mill city. It appears to be set in the 1840s.

The main complaint is that BBCA hacked it to death. The DVD shows 240 minutes and BBCA ran it at 240 minutes including commercials and credits. Not surprisingly, things were a bit choppy and some of the scenes lacked context because of what was cut. For example, in the last railway station scene, Thornton and Margaret are talking about the rose from Helston and I don't think there were any scenes of them discussing roses or Helston.

Even choppy, I loved the story and the characters, even "wild" Mrs. Thornton. I was concerned that Mr. Bell would be an old lech, a la Bill Nighy's character in He Knew He Was Right, but thankfully that wasn't the case.

I had some trouble with the darkness of many of the scenes. I know northern English mill cities were dark and depressing, but a bit more lighting would have helped. The fact that most of the characters wore very dark clothes didn't help matters.

I also found it hard to believe that Thornton would have walked around in public with no hat (which they showed several times) or in his shirt sleeves with his cravat off as he was in the last scene.

If you missed it, all four parts will be airing again on 7/17 in (I think) the afternoon.

Edited by choochi, Jul 4, 2005 @ 8:08 PM.


#2

JeanPoole

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Posted Jul 4, 2005 @ 11:38 PM

I tivoed it and am slowly working my way through. I too loved Wives and Daughters and I know BBCA is changing their programming come fall and will be far more aggressive in bringing new programming to the fore as of January 2006. If this is a beginning, it's a good though rather dark one.
It's a rather split start to the new stuff: Footballers Wives and North and South. Something for everyone I guess. I just wish the editing was better. Some of the performances seemed almost perfunctory, not awful, just not really vivid.

#3

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 6:18 AM

They probably lopped off at least 60 minutes of the whole thing, so this seemed almost like a Cliff Notes version. The DVD isn't out in the US yet, but it will definitely be on my list to buy or rent when it does. Or better yet, I'll read the book.

I'm glad to hear that BBCA is improving its programming. I am getting a little sick of seeing umpteen reruns of the DIY shows and sitcoms.

#4

Milz

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 8:32 AM

I was hoping MT would get this series. :( Well, I'll see if I can rent it from netflix.

#5

Inquisitionist

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 8:45 AM

They probably lopped off at least 60 minutes of the whole thing, so this seemed almost like a Cliff Notes version.


One more reason to boycott BBCA. I'll await the DVD release on this one.

#6

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 9:04 AM

I figured they must have done a good bit of editing b/c it seemed very choppy in places. Still and all, it was well done and enjoyable - tho as someone else said, the cinematography was very dark. I also have to agree that Mr. Thornton would never have gone about without a tie and jacket - this was Victorian England after all.

#7

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 12:45 PM

North & South aired on BBC1 last November and sparked The Cult of Armitage i.e. Richard Armitage who played Mr Thornton. There's a huge Yahoo group devoted to him.

Regarding the choppy scenes, I've read that when it aired in Australia a while back, viewers there noticed the same thing. But apparently the Oz station airing it didn't do any of the cutting, they only showed the version that they were given by the BBC, whatever that's about.
To be honest, the book seems a bit choppy too at times and the ending does come off as slightly rushed. Still an interesting read though.

I also found it hard to believe that Thornton would have walked around in public with no hat (which they showed several times) or in his shirt sleeves with his cravat off as he was in the last scene.


When it aired here, what most people were fixated on was that Thornton & Margaret would be openly smooching on a railway bench. Not quite the done thing! There was also some issues with Thornton's introduction in the series being a lot fiercer than it is in the book.

#8

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 1:08 PM

I've heard about the opening fight scene and the fact that it is not in the book and out of character for Mr. Thornton.

As for the cult of Armitage, I wouldn't mind joining them. He has a great nose and profile.

I've read some saying Thornton is more compelling than Mr. Darcy, but I think that is going a bit far.

Edited by choochi, Jul 5, 2005 @ 1:07 PM.


#9

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 7:29 PM

I enjoyed this greatly. I'm sorry to say when I wrote to the BBC Shop online to ask about the possibility of a DVD release in the U.S., this was the reply:

Unfortunately "North and South" is not currently available or planned for release in the U.S. and Canada.  However, we use requests like yours to help us plan future releases.

I guess that's a sliver of hope I can someday see the unchopped version on DVD. (Is the U.K. version completely unplayable on American DVD players? Has anyone gone to the lengths of buying a U.K. DVD player in the U.S., just for this kind of thing?)

I loved the John Thornton character, and Richard Armitage playing John Thornton. I'm not complaining about his missing cravat and coat in the final scene--it just added to the dreamlike happiness. So pretty, John and Margaret in the warm sunlight after all the dark, cold scenes of misunderstanding and separation.

And I relished every scene with the great Sinead Cusack. What a mother-in-law she will be! I suspect that she will learn to love Margaret once she sees how necessary Margaret is to John's happiness. She will never be easy to live with, though.

I'm halfway through the book and am finding it interesting, though Gaskell is not the writer Dickens or Austen is (more plodding and straight-ahead). England's "North-South" divide was pretty much off my radar, as an American, though now I can recall hints of it in other 19th-century British novels.

#10

choochi

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Posted Jul 5, 2005 @ 7:52 PM

You can buy a multi-region DVD player to play DVDs from, ahem, multi regions.

#11

Inquisitionist

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Posted Jul 6, 2005 @ 7:57 AM

Has anyone gone to the lengths of buying a U.K. DVD player in the U.S., just for this kind of thing?

Yes, I have a model that works beautifully -- just try searching for "region free DVD players" on the web, or e-mail me for more information. I've ordered a number of UK-release-only DVDs from both amazon.uk and sendit.com, things that I suspect will never be released in the U.S. (or at least not for a very long time) like The Duchess of Duke Street, Fall of Eagles, and The Day of the Triffids (1981 version with John Duttine). Recently I bought a special edition of Four Weddings and a Funeral that has a bunch of making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as commentary by writer Richard Curtis.

Edited by Inquisitionist, Jul 6, 2005 @ 3:32 PM.


#12

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Posted Jul 6, 2005 @ 10:33 AM

I enjoyed this greatly. I'm sorry to say when I wrote to the BBC Shop online to ask about the possibility of a DVD release in the U.S., this was the reply:
Unfortunately "North and South" is not currently available or planned for release in the U.S. and Canada.  However, we use requests like yours to help us plan future releases.


The BBC don't seem to have to have gotten behind this show at all. I couldn't see the tie-in book in any shop anywhere last year (or now for that matter) unlike every other adaptation they've done where the shops have been full of them.

As for the DVD release, there was no sign of it being released at all until an email campaign sprang up from the old BBC messageboards and they eventually agreed and it was released in April. I realise that there is a lot of legal wrangling with DVD releases and all that but I do wonder sometimes why they bothered spending money on it if they weren't going to fully publicise it. Especially as one or two other BBC dramas that aired at the same time were on DVD release a week or two after they finished airing.

#13

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Posted Jul 6, 2005 @ 11:04 AM

I had seen the website for this miniseries on the BBC website and was hoping that it would be shown this fall on Masterpiece Theatre. If they are not showing this, what are they going to show?

#14

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Posted Jul 6, 2005 @ 8:08 PM

On the subject of dvd players, you could always get a hold of the code for your model, and take off the encoding, thus turning it multi-region. If it was a cheap one this works. If it was dear it doesn't.

You'll find the code on the Net, somewhere. I did with mine, but I didn't save the site.

#15

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Posted Jul 7, 2005 @ 8:28 AM

you could always get a hold of the code for your model, and take off the encoding, thus turning it multi-region.

Yes, but I think you still need software to make PAL-recorded programs playable on an NTSC television. That's what you really pay for when buying a region-free player.

#16

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 7, 2005 @ 6:58 PM

I ordered a region-free player that also does that other thing (translates PAL into NTSC, whatever that means), with the help of a kindly fellow TwoP-er. I don't know why I am so strangely determined to own this DVD. All I can say is that Richard Armitage as John Thornton was mesmerizing. Something about the hardness of the exterior (an iron self-control) and the sweetness of the interior (the light in his eyes, seen so rarely)...

My heart goes out to people in London tonight. I'm sending all my sympathy to those injured or grieving after this morning's terrible events.

#17

PiscesSiren

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Posted Jul 14, 2005 @ 1:52 PM

Just a reminder that North & South will be shown again this Sunday 7/17/05 on BBC America!

#18

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 16, 2005 @ 12:41 PM

Thanks for the reminder, PiscesSiren. It will be all four episodes, starting at 1:00 p.m. Central Time (2:00 Eastern).

I'm still working on various pieces of hardware so I can watch the U.K. DVD of North and South that should arrive at my house any day now....

#19

PiscesSiren

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Posted Jul 16, 2005 @ 2:22 PM

graybrown bird I was lucky to master my new VCR in time for tomorrow's taping, otherwise I'd be hacking a new DVD player to do the same thing!

BBC America is actually running commercials for this, so viewership should be up. Dumb move on their part to run it originally on a Holiday weekend.

All swooning aside, it's one of the better mini-series I've seen in a very long time. Actually inspired me to pick up the book too.

#20

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 16, 2005 @ 8:19 PM

It inspired me to find the book, too. It filled the time quite nicely between the first showing and tomorrow's....

Good luck with the taping, PiscesSiren!

#21

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Posted Jul 17, 2005 @ 4:25 PM

They probably lopped off at least 60 minutes of the whole thing, so this seemed almost like a Cliff Notes version.


That exactly how the series played to me on BBC America. I can't help wondering how much and what has been edited out of this broadcast. The 4 hours went by so quickly.

Richard Armitage was amazing as John Thornton. He did kind of remind me of Mr. Darcy.

#22

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 17, 2005 @ 5:05 PM

He reminded me of Mr. Rochester, but Richard Armitage is too handsome for THAT role.

#23

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Posted Jul 18, 2005 @ 5:05 AM

I thought Richard Armitage had a bit of a Sean Bean vibe to him. Maybe it's partly the northern accent.

I was lucky enough to see this on the original BBC UK showing, and I thought it was excellent. At first, Daniella Denby-Ashe wasn't my idea of Margaret, after reading the book beforehand, but I thought she did well in the part. Sinead Cusack made a formidable Mrs Thornton I thought, and Jo Joyner made me laugh as Fanny.

The book was really well realised on screen I thought, with many scenes looking amazing, like in the factory with the white cotton in the air like snow.

#24

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Posted Jul 18, 2005 @ 6:16 AM

I remember another BBC adaptation of this from years ago - with Patrick Stewart as Mr Thornton. Hm.

I thought this took some real liberties with Gaskell's book and shook my head in confusion at the idea that a woman who had been mortified at her loss of reputation would be smooching a man at a railway station and then travelling alone with him, or that that man, who had been disturbed by her laxity before would have behaved like that.

That said, Richard Armitage fit the bill perfectly and Sinead Cusack was wonderful as his mother.

#25

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Posted Jul 18, 2005 @ 1:02 PM

Darn it, I didn't see this thread earlier. I was in London last November when part 1 aired so I was hoping it would turn up on American tv at some point. I think I had even mentioned it in the Masterpiece Theatre thread.

I have most or all of Elizabeth Gaskell's books but haven't read them all yet. I did read North and South (probably last year after seeing part 1) but don't remember it closely enough to notice the differences.

#26

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Posted Jul 18, 2005 @ 1:25 PM

I thought this took some real liberties with Gaskell's book and shook my head in confusion at the idea that a woman who had been mortified at her loss of reputation would be smooching a man at a railway station and then travelling alone with him, or that that man, who had been disturbed by her laxity before would have behaved like that.


ITA. It was rather shocking to see such a public display of affection. It was like the producers suddenly turned the lust meter to 10 from a 3. It was a memorable scene though. That scene was the #1 memorable scene of 2004 for viewers on the BBC website.

#27

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Posted Jul 20, 2005 @ 9:10 PM

I wish this had been better promoted in the U.S. Even edited in a choppy way, it was the best period drama I have seen in years. It would be a shame if they did not release a dvd soon.

I have used a website to try to decode my dvd player, while waiting for my N & S DVD to arrive from amazon.co.uk. All this talk about PAL and NTSC (or whatever) me concerned though. I thought I had done enough to make my player region free by hacking it.

If necessary, I will buy a new player for my DVD. I am obsessed now with Richard Armitage. (Why isn't he receiving tons of coverage in the British press? Who cares about that wimp, Jude Law?)

I read the book after watching the marathon last weekend, and now want to view it again!

#28

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Posted Jul 21, 2005 @ 3:13 AM

I am obsessed now with Richard Armitage. (Why isn't he receiving tons of coverage in the British press? Who cares about that wimp, Jude Law?)


Oh, word. I've even trawled through such utter shite as the "Cats" video, and Star Wars Episode 4 trying to catch a glimpse of the man (no dice, in either case- I guess you 'ave to look 'ard...)

Edited by CalicoGinger13, Jul 21, 2005 @ 3:13 AM.


#29

graybrown bird

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Posted Jul 21, 2005 @ 9:04 PM

You and me both, Bufferuskers. I have been struggling since the middle of July to get ready to play the DVD of North and South I ordered from the U.K. Amazon site. It's too hot in Wisconsin to go outside anyway.

I have used a website to try to decode my dvd player, while waiting for my N & S DVD to arrive from amazon.co.uk. All this talk about PAL and NTSC (or whatever) me concerned though. I thought I had done enough to make my player region free by hacking it.


I ordered a "region-free" DVD player from a site here in the U.S. I didn't read the specs carefully enough, though, and subsequently realized I also needed to order a "video converter" (and it's just arrived, from the same place). Apparently they have a couple of models that have the video converter built inside the player (which allows your U.S. (NTSC) television to show the British (PAL) DVD that your region-free player is playing. But I ordered the DVD player I was familiar with (just modified to make it region-free), which didn't have the converter built in.

I now have the video converter, too, and will install it over the weekend. It's a tiny but fairly expensive little machine, and I hope to God it's as easy to install as the directions imply.

Whatever it takes!

Oh--and thinking it over I don't mind that I needed the video converter, too. I get great picture quality with this DVD player and don't want to give that up. I'm so looking forward to seeing all 240 minutes of North and South, unchopped.

Edited by graybrown bird, Jul 21, 2005 @ 9:09 PM.


#30

PiscesSiren

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Posted Jul 30, 2005 @ 9:32 PM

Am currently plodding through the book & it really does get better in the second half. Many liberties were taken for the adaptation but it is a very good story. All in all, still one of the best mini-series in a long time, even in it's current chopped up BBC-America state with Footballer's Wives promos every 2 minutes! Oi!