Express TV Critic Rewatches Brideshead

The 1980s TV series of Brideshead Revisited was recently rebroadcast by ITV Encore and is still available on an online “catch up” site which may require a subscription fee and UK internet connection. The Sunday Express TV critic, David Stephenson, chose that as one of the TV dramas to review this week. He seems to have watched only the last episode but was duly impressed:

The scale of the series was epic, in every sense, and parts of it were shot like a film, with long tracking shots in this episode of Jeremy Irons and Diana Quick walking through the woods discussing the “lack of entail”…You couldn’t accuse it of rushing a story either. Here was Evelyn Waugh’s evocative classic told in its entirety by John Mortimer. No messing, no reimagining, no updating, just how the original writer would have imagined it on the screen.

I’m not so sure he’s got it right about John Mortimer’s role in the production. Although Mortimer receives screen credit, those involved in the production have explained that his script was largely discarded in favor of Waugh’s original dialogue and narrative. Stephen-son concludes by offering this advice:

My message to drama commissioners now is to watch Brideshead to see where they have gone wrong for the past 34 years. Don’t give us another reheated version of Dickens, or Tolstoy (we’re to get War And Peace soon on the BBC); just do it straight and you will be rewarded with millions of viewers. But maybe don’t put it out over a barbecue summer.


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