With the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth nearly upon us (February 2012), there are numerous festivals, exhibitions and educational activities planned for 2012. Two of the most eagerly awaited events from my perspective, however, will be those that find their way to the telly in December leading up to the year-long celebration.
The four-year-old hit BBC Radio 4 sitcom whose name was derived from two works of Charles Dickens, Bleak House and Great Expectations has spawned a spin-off television series, The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff. The greatness of Stephen Fry joins the cast, which begins filming today, along with what reads as a who’s who of British situation comedy including Robert Webb (Mitchell and Webb), Katherine Parkinson (Doc Martin, The IT Crowd, The Old Guys, Whites), Sarah Hadland (Miranda), in addition to David Mitchell, Celia Imrie, Johnny Vegas and Tim McInnerny. The four-part series will premiere with a one-hour special on Christmas Eve in the UK on BBC Two.
The most recent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations stars Gillian Anderson (Bleak House, The X-Files) as Miss Havisham, Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast, Henry VIII), as Magwitch, and David Suchet (Poirot) as Jagger. The co-production of the BBC and PBS’ Masterpiece series will air as the centerpiece of the famed Christmas Day line-up on the BBC and is tentatively scheduled for an April 2012 premiere on PBS.
Dickens 2012 or not, it’s shaping up to be a very competitive day, as usual, of Christmas Day programming on both the BBC and ITV and a great 2012 for PBS’ Masterpiece series with the likes of Downton Abbey 2, Sherlock 2 and, now, Great Expectations.