Birdsong – another Masterpiece, 4/22 on PBS


The upcoming April 22 premiere of Birdsong will, undoubtedly, bring endless comparisons to Downton Abbey. Airing as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series on April 22 and 29, the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ modern classic set during the First World War has, literally, been 20 years in the making.

When this appeared in the UK in early 2012, the BBC immediately announced that British drama is back and was as good as American drama such as Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and The Wire. To be honest, I’m not sure that it took seeing Birdsong for me to come to that conclusion given the fact that you also have the likes of Spooks, Hustle, Life On Mars, Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, Wallander, Case Histories, Zen and more to add to the mix.

Besides the BBC’s understandable singing of Birdsong praises, audiences seemed to again fall in love with the book and the sheer visual beauty of the small screen adaptation. It is extraordinary from a visual standpoint given that World War I is a prominent backdrop. The comparisons to Downton Abbey referred to earlier center around the fact that Birdsong beautifully intertwines the passion of a love affair with the utter horror of a World War. It’s the story of Wraysford (Eddie Redmayne), a young Englishman who falls in love with a French woman, Isabelle, (Clémence Poésy) while working for her husband. The program also stars Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited, The King’s Speech), Matthew Goode (Brideshead Revisited) and Joseph Mawle (Murder on the Orient Express).

As many involved from the beginning will say, Birdsong was a very difficult novel to adapt given that it spans the time frame of 1910 to 1978. This might give some insight as to why it’s taken almost 20 years to successfully create since the novel was written. For a much deeper understanding as to what transpired between 1993 and 2012 to bring 45 actors, 125 production personnel and over 100 extras together to create visually stunning television, click here for some great behind the scenes and the making of Birdsong.

In the interim, Masterpiece devotees can watch tonight’s broadcast of Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

  • jt

    I missed the first part of Birdsong last Sunday, so I watched it on the repeat at 2:00 a.m. the other day.  I did not understand it very well, but I thought it was because I was tired and sleepy.  I watched the second part of the programme tonight, and I still do not quite understand it.  I have been listening to British accents for years with little problem, but I found it exceedingly hard to understand most of what these actors said.  They did not seem to enunciate.  I literally caught about every fourth word most of them said.  This was very disappointing.  It seemed a very poignant programme, though.  I knew precious little about trench warfare as I began watching this programme, and I was surprised to see it portrayed this extensively.  “Hell on earth” is the phrase that comes to mind.  One would think that after WWI no one would have ever wanted to fight another war for the rest of eternity.

    • Subio

      I’m not a native English speaker, but it sounded fine to me. And you can always use CC ! I loved Birdsong, it was one of the best, even for BBC ! I can’t wait to see more of their productions ! Thank you, thank you, thank you, BBC and PBS !

      • jt

        I am glad someone understood what they were saying!

  • jt

    I missed the first part of Birdsong last Sunday, so I watched it on the repeat at 2:00 a.m. the other day.  I did not understand it very well, but I thought it was because I was tired and sleepy.  I watched the second part of the programme tonight, and I still do not quite understand it.  I have been listening to British accents for years with little problem, but I found it exceedingly hard to understand most of what these actors said.  They did not seem to enunciate.  I literally caught about every fourth word most of them said.  This was very disappointing.  It seemed a very poignant programme, though.  I knew precious little about trench warfare as I began watching this programme, and I was surprised to see it portrayed this extensively.  “Hell on earth” is the phrase that comes to mind.  One would think that after WWI no one would have ever wanted to fight another war for the rest of eternity.

    • Subio

      I’m not a native English speaker, but it sounded fine to me. And you can always use CC ! I loved Birdsong, it was one of the best, even for BBC ! I can’t wait to see more of their productions ! Thank you, thank you, thank you, BBC and PBS !

  • Llois92

    Where is the last half of Birdsong?  I watched the first half but was unable to watch the end (2nd Half).  

  • Llois92

    Where is the last half of Birdsong?  I watched the first half but was unable to watch the end (2nd Half).  

  • Tempest246

    Birdsong story is good but I do not like the 2 main actors…..

    NO COMPARISON TO DOWNTON ABBEY.

    • jt

      I thought the same thing.  I thought it was miscast, but what do I know?  I never tried to compare it to Downton Abbey any more than I tried to compare Titanic to Downton Abbey.  The difference was that I thought Titanic was quite good.

  • Tempest246

    Birdsong story is good but I do not like the 2 main actors…..

    NO COMPARISON TO DOWNTON ABBEY.

    • jt

      I thought the same thing.  I thought it was miscast, but what do I know?  I never tried to compare it to Downton Abbey any more than I tried to compare Titanic to Downton Abbey.  The difference was that I thought Titanic was quite good.