Thursday, October 20, 2011

Charles Dickens: A Comedy Roast

Plans to celebrate the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens's birth next year continue apace at the British Broadcasting Corporation. Following announcements of new adaptations of Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, BBC Radio 4's acclaimed comedy series inspired by the many novels of the great man, Bleak Expectations, is to be adapted for television this Christmas as The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff by writer Mark Evans. It seems to me very fitting that such a project be greenlit at a time when we reflect on Dickens's vast contribution as he himself was an merciless satirist of various aspects of Victorian life and one would like to think that he would be able to appreciate a well-made parody of the various tropes and conventions of his own oevure. The series, beginning with a Christmas special and continuing with three further episodes in the New Year, will no doubt feature youthful indiscretions, unscrupulous individuals with flamboyant names, selfish parents, patient wives and many a reversal of fortune.

The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff tells the tale of one Jedrington Secret-Past, the up-standing family man and owner of The Old Shop of Stuff, Victorian London's most successful purveyor of miscellaneous odd things. We will follow Jedrington's various misadventures including being incarcerated by the evil lawyer Malifax Skulkingworm in London's infamous prison The Skint on the eve of Christmas until he can repay a mysterious and vast debt, teaming up with seemingly charming business partner Harmswell Grimstone and discovering that his wife Conceptiva has a secret past that is even darker than his own. Starring Robert Webb as Jedrington, Katherine Parkinson as Conceptiva, Stephen Fry as Skulkingworm and Tim McInnerney as Grimstone, the impressive ensemble cast also includes David Mitchell (pictured above with comedy partner Webb in a Poirot skit from their sketch series), Sarah Hadland, Celia Imrie, Pauline McLynn, Kevin Eldon, Derek Griffiths and Johnny Vegas. What larks, eh?

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