On the shortest day of the year with rain pouring down outside, I found myself lost in the world of Charles Dickens. During the holidays, I often spend time with Dickens, usually watching A Christmas Carol, based on the novella of the same name. My favorite rendition is the 1984 made-for-television version starring George C. Scott as the mean old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge.
But, this holiday season my focus on Scrooge’s life broadened to include many more of Dicken’s classic characters. In Dickensian, the favorites, including Scrooge, are all there, crossing paths, stopping at the same pubs, and borrowing money from the same unscrupulous moneylenders. Produced by BBC and first aired in 2016, the ten-part series is as close to 19th century London as you can get. Think of this as the backstory to A Christmas Carol. Jacob Marley, the greedy, heartless partner of Scrooge is still alive, but not for long. Someone kills him in the dead of night while he visits the unsavory London docks. Enter Inspector Bucket, who pronounces his name with an explosive ‘B” and “T” to find the murderer.
That sets the mystery in motion. There are likely and unlikely suspects. Inspector Bucket isn’t always on his game. But as he investigates, we, the viewer, have the chance to watch classic characters, like Fagin, Bob Cratchit and his family, including Tiny Tim still walking and running, Mr. Bumble, a very tiny Oliver Twist and the beautiful, intelligent and doomed Amelia Havisham, go about their lives in the 1850's.
Dickensian is well acted, beautifully lit with sets so realistic you can smell the coal fires burning. Unfortunately, while the British viewing public liked the first few episodes, they lost interest soon after so there is no Season 2. What a pity. I, for one, would love to see more.
(I saw the series on Amazon Prime.)