Skip to content

Fun Friday–Northanger Abbey on PBS

Friday, January 18, 2008


Northanger Abbey

In an effort to promote the watching of the adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels which will be airing through April on PBS’s Masterpiece Classics, I’ll be featuring the upcoming movie/episode on Fun Fridays.

I’ve only read Northanger Abbey once or twice, so I know most of y’all haven’t read it. The only film version available to date is one that the BBC did in the 1980s—with bad 80s music in the background. So needless to say, they could make massive divergences from the novel in this film, and I might not notice—so no ranting message next week (I hope!).

This new version of NA was adapted for the screen by the incomparable Andrew Davies. Now, most of you probably have no idea who he is. For those of us who are BBC costume drama fanatics, to us, Andrew Davies is like Ridley Scott to action/triller-movie addicts—he’s the best. Or, to put it in other words, Andrew Davies is the one who gave us Collin Firth in that infamous wet-shirt scene in the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice. (He also wrote the screen adaptations for the Bridget Jones movies, but most of us have forgiven him that.)

This Austen series is almost a Davies series; he is the credited screenwriter on four of the six adaptations that will be airing: Northanger Abbey (airing Jan. 20), Pride & Prejudice (Feb. 10, 17, 24), Emma (March 23, made for A&E in 1996 and starring Mark Strong [Stardust] and Kate Beckinsale [Pearl Harbor]), and Sense & Sensibility (Mar. 30, Apr. 6). He has also adapted a new version of A Room with a View which will play later in April or May.

But today, we’re focusing on NA.

The daughter of a country clergyman, Catherine Morland has a passion for gothic romance novels and a vivid imagination. She gets the opportunity to go to Bath for the season with family friends. While in Bath, she makes the acquaintance of the Thorpe family, specifically Isabella, who is engaged to Catherine’s brother, and John. Isabella teaches Catherine the fine art of flirtation, and soon John is showing romantic interest in Catherine.

Catherine, however, isn’t interested in the wild John, but in the quiet Henry Tilney. Henry’s father, General Tilney, under the misinformation that Catherine is wealthy, invites Catherine to come spend some time at their ancestral home, Northanger Abbey. The Abbey answers all of Catherine’s gothic imaginings; and as soon as she arrives, the fun begins.

This is one of Austen’s least-read, least-analyzed novels. She observed around her young women so overtaken by emotion when reading gothic romances (akin to horror novels now) that she wrote this story to illustrate the ridiculous nature of their reactions—that it was all in their imaginations.

Now that I think about it, it really is one of her more humorous novels, as she continually puts Catherine in situations where she thinks she’s about to see a ghost or a dead body or discover some clue to an ancient and horrible secret which turns out to be a laundry receipt or something equally mundane. I really need to read it again.

With a cast of fresh faces (even with as addicted to BBC movies/shows as I am, I don’t recognize the majority of the actors/actresses in it), I believe this new version will prove to be the ultimate winner of this Austen Season.

Links of Interest
Interview with screenwriter Andrew Davies on NPR
Listing on
Main page at PBS’s Masterpiece Classics site
Wikipedia Article on Northanger Abbey
Full Text of Northanger Abbey on Bibliomania

For more information on Jane Austen and all of her works:
The Jane Austen Society of North America
The Republic of Pemberley

  1. Friday, January 18, 2008 12:19 pm

    Oh cool! I have to watch. I can’t believe he’s the one who came up with the wet shirt scene. Any wet shirts in this one? OK OK, just kidding =P


  2. Friday, January 18, 2008 1:01 pm

    I haven’t heard about any in NA, but there’s a huge brouhaha over the opening scene of the new S&S which shows Willoughby’s seduction of Eliza Williams (the young girl under Col. Brandon’s care).


  3. Friday, January 18, 2008 4:11 pm

    I’ll be recording each of these adaptations. 🙂


  4. Susan permalink
    Friday, January 18, 2008 4:49 pm

    I caught the NPR review of this episode while driving into work this morning. I loved Davies’ comment (probably paraphrased badly here) that he was just using special effects, actors, and costumes to do what he loves best: bringing literary characters to life just as he did for his students when he was teaching.


  5. Monday, January 21, 2008 1:57 am

    Woah, they’re showing Willoughby’s seduction of Eliza? How did I miss hearing about this brouhaha??

    Anyway…to comment on NA…as you know, I LOVED IT!!! Gushing blog will appear tomorrow. 🙂


  6. Monday, January 21, 2008 3:34 pm

    I loved this adaptation, unlike last week’s Persuasion, which was badly lit and not very well acted. I thought Felicity Jones was particularly well cast–pretty enough to attract attention from the gentlemen, and young and romantic enough to be influenced by Udolpho. The photography was lovely, and the COSTUMES. Ohmygosh. The bonnets. The costumes. Must get DVD and save frames. Must make. Must own.



  7. kitezzz permalink
    Sunday, January 27, 2008 8:56 am

    Who is the actress doing the introduction? She is very familiar but I just can’t place her.


  8. Sunday, January 27, 2008 1:17 pm

    It’s Gillian Anderson, formerly of the X-Files (Scully) and Bleak House (Lady Deadlock).


  9. kitezzz permalink
    Sunday, January 27, 2008 6:48 pm

    YIKES! I guess she’s familiar. I really feel stupid.



  1. Fun Friday–Mansfield Park on PBS «
  2. A Sense of Closure «
  3. Fun Friday–Spotlight on Fun Friday «
  4. Costume Drama Thursday: A Hazard of Hearts and The Lady & The Highwayman «

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: