USA Premiere of Decline and Fall Today

Acorn-TV is premiering the BBC’s adaptation of Waugh’s first novel Decline and Fall today. All three episodes are available now for streaming, and a free one-week trial is on offer for those who do not already have subscriptions. Here’s the link to the Acorn-TV site for the series.

The series appears in the weekly recommended TV columns in several US papers, including the New York Times (“madcap journey … UK critics raved”), the Washington Post and TV Insider (“brisk and truly funny … rollicking satire”). The Los Angeles Times also publishes a more detailed review of the series by its TV Critic Robert Lloyd:

In 1928, when Evelyn Waugh published his first novel, the satirical “Decline and Fall,” there was no television to speak of. (Books were like television once, culturally speaking, if you can believe it.) But his work … is very adaptable to the screen, with its vivid characters, colorful settings and made-for-speaking dialogue. Plus, it has the added bonus of satisfying our undying taste for British period pieces… Screenwriter James Wood … has taken almost all his material from the page, pruning and shaping without violating the original’s form, adding in incidental exchanges and bits of business that for the most part build upon rather than kill Waugh’s own jokes. If he sets off (literal) fireworks the original author left unlighted, because that is what the screen likes, Waugh at least put them there.

After detailed praise for the acting and writing, Lloyd concludes:

It is a semi-fantastical tale, … the sort of story that does not mind shooting a schoolboy in the foot for the sake of a joke and then giving him gangrene, adding infection to injury…(Some prejudices of the author and/or his characters have been softened slightly, but not eliminated, while matters about which Waugh had to be circumspect are made a little more obvious.)… There are many delightful things here, from the production, with its old fabrics and furniture, through the performances. … Most pleasant, perhaps, is the sense that there is a kind of order even in a chaotic world, a force that brings these characters together to their benefit, though much might be suffered along the way. Perhaps that’s just literature, but it’s a cheery thought, the odd case of gangrene notwithstanding.

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