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How Charles Dickens would have loved and hated the pan-jandrums of the BBC. Loved laughing at them, hated them for ruining his finest story.
Ferociously protective of his novels and his characters, he could never have forgiven the corporation for this joyless travesty of Great Expectations (BBC1).
But it’s easy to imagine his hoots of gleeful contempt at the arrogance, ignorance and self-satisfied stupidity that has gone into its making. Dickens spent his career satirising hypocritical clergymen and deceitful lawyers, pompous, petty officials and incompetent blowhards.
What fun he’d have had with the executives of Broadcasting House – Mr Josiah Stallywart the Corporate Executive Producer, Miss Creempufe the Controller of Digital Portfolio Content, Mr Wyseacre the Head of In-House Creative, or Mrs Anunciata Wimpletop, the Senior Editorial Editor.
If only the Inimitable Boz had lived long enough to sneer at the goings-on in W1A, that inspired mockumentary series which satirised BBC management.
'How Charles Dickens would have loved and hated the pan-jandrums of the BBC. Loved laughing at them, hated them for ruining his finest story'
'Estella (Chloe Lea), who should be haughty and cruelly mocking, behaved more like a cheeky servant girl'
But then again, it’s a good job for his sake he didn’t. His beloved Great Expectations has been mashed up into Woke Desecrations.
The spine-chilling first chapter, where Magwitch the escaped convict seizes young Pip by the throat in a graveyard at night, was relegated to a scene halfway through the episode.
Worse, Steven Knight, who wrote the adaptation, discarded much of the language that makes the moment so unforgettably frightening.
In the novel, Magwitch tells Pip he has a friend, hiding in the darkness, who can find his victim wherever he hides. ‘A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw the clothes over his head’... but still the killer will ‘softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him open’.
What chilling poetry. Those lines scared the living daylights out of me at 12 years old and are as gripping today as when they were written.
This is a very different country to the Britain of Victorian times, but one thing hasn’t changed – we’re still obsessed by the spectre of murder in our beds.