A (ladylike) rant.

I watched episodes 1 and 2 of the BBC’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” via my local PBS station last Sunday night, despite the fact that I have all four episodes stored on my hard drive (thanks to a dear friend who, in turn, has friends in all the right places).  It wasn’t until after the closing credits rolled that I remembered PBS’s penchant for slicing and dicing programs to fit into their predetermined blocks of time.  So, in anticipation of tomorrow’s airing of episodes 3 and 4, I watched those episodes on my laptop.  I hope that I won’t notice any scenes missing but, if I do, I’ll be ahead of my countrymen because I’ll know what actually is missing.

A funny thing happened in early 2008 when PBS aired ITV’s adaptation of Austen’s “Persuasion.”  I watched a bootlegged copy of ITV’s original film (obtained via another friend who has friends in high places) and then received an invitation through JASNA to watch the film on the big screen at an auditorium at Cooper Union in New York.  I sat with other friends who had watched the bootlegged copy with me and we were, frankly, shocked to see that several scenes had been cut from ITV’s original.   After the film ended, there was a Q&A with a JASNA representative, a representative from Penguin books (which had published new editions of the novels to go along with “Austen Season”) and a representative from WGBH in Boston.  I stood up and asked the woman from WGBH why the scenes were cut.  She spouted some nonsense that I cannot remember and that did not answer the question.  This upset the assembled greatly and led to a lot of mumbling and grumbling among audience members.  To be honest, the audience was upset already because, let’s face it, this particular adaptation of Persuasion is positively dreadful, but the revelation of the edits did not help matters.

This admittedly long and rather round-about story leads to a warning to anyone out there who relies on PBS to help feed their British drama addiction – PBS EDITS THESE PRODUCTIONS AND DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW IT.  Please excuse the shouting (because I did promise to be ladylike), but this is important and I believe it is my duty to tell as many people as possible.  PBS won’t stop doing it, but hopefully having the masses know about it will encourage them to put back what they took out when it comes to the DVDs they sell afterwards.  As of now, they don’t.  Yes, it’s confusing, but please bear with me a few minutes longer.

Back in 2007, ITV produced new versions of “Persuasion,” “Mansfield Park” and “Northanger Abbey.”  Each of them was edited for airing on PBS.  And this is where it gets confusing – the DVDs for “Persuasion” were distributed by the BBC.  The Region 1 (North American) DVDs are intact; anyone who buys one gets the same film as do buyers in Region 2 (UK and most of continental Europe).  But the DVDs for “Mansfield Park” and “Northanger Abbey” were distributed by WGBH and are identical to what was shown on PBS.  In other words, we here in North America get a shorter movie than do the people in Region 2.  The moral of the story?   Know that you have options.

These options include:

  • You can buy a multi-region DVD player;
  • You can visit this site to see about the possibility of hacking your current one;
  • You can install a VLC Media Player onto your computer that will allow you to watch DVDs from anywhere in the world without adjusting the region code on your computer; or
  • You can watch a lot of  these films on YouTube.

And, while we’re on the subject of the BBC, PBS and “Masterpiece,” I just want to say that I loved this latest production of “Emma.”  Unfortunately, however, Romola Garai wasn’t quite what I’d hoped in the title role, but I loved the production itself.  Alas,  a full review is a subject for another post.