Some of the BBC’s most high profile dramas recently have consisted of taking a story with a well-known title, then ‘adapting’ it into a bunch of plots that have nothing to do with the original story and everything to do with a committee of scriptwriters meeting at 9 am on a Monday and struggling to reach any original ideas because the coffee machine they rely on to slice through the exhaustion and apathy clogging their brains is broken. That’s how we got High Camelot Musical and The Sheriff of Nottingham Is an Unsubtle Metaphor for the War on Terror.
I couldn’t even get through the Ladybird Classics edition of The Three Musketeers, so when I caught the last two episodes of The Musketeers on BBC 1 (which evidently likes to keep its exact number of musketeers ambiguous. Possibly they are legion. Possibly there are only two), I couldn’t possibly comment on how much and how badly they’ve changed the source material. I tried the Wikipedia plot summary and found ten paragraphs confusingly crammed with characters whose names have a ‘de’ in them, but the BBC’s version seems pretty much made up from scratch, and unfortunately, from a hilariously terrible scratch, chiefly for these five reasons:
“I’ve tried throughout this war to maintain my sense of humour”, says Captain Fred Roberts (Ben Chaplin), serving on the Western Front in 1916. The Wipers Times, a 90-minute drama broadcast on BBC Two last night and scripted by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, shows how war and black wit are intertwined; indeed, how a sense of humour can be an important weapon in the battle to keep your sanity.
Trigger warning: references to rape, gang-rape and child sexual abuse
Spoiler warning: for Top of the Lake and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
New Zealand director Jane Campion’s films, such as The Piano (for which she became the second female Best Director Oscar nominee ever, and won for Best Original Screenplay) and Bright Star, divide viewers between those who admire her rich, challenging characters and stories, breath-taking cinematography and complex but unapologetically feminist perspective, and those who find her pretentious and baffling. I’m firmly in the first camp, and was eager to watch the director’s first television series, Top of the Lake, when it showed on BBC2 earlier this month.