Growing up, we watched a lot of miniseries--or at least a couple different ones many times, often while working on sewing projects. So maybe my return to sewing is to blame for my recent rewatching of a number of miniseries and, consequently, this post. Which is all about miniseries and which ones I think are best. And here my opinion is law!
Originally I thought I could somehow include all the titles in one blog post, but that soon went out of the window--there are so many! So I'm starting with Jane Austen. If we're being technical, not all of these are miniseries--some are theatrical--but I'm going to lump them all together. I also noted any cast members that reappear in the lists, just for fun (it's by no means exhaustive). What's the point of watching a British miniseries if you don't spend half the time recognizing the cast from other miniseries? There are also bonus points for featuring members of the Harry Potter cast. Just because.
Sense & Sensibility: I think Emma Thompson's 1995 adaptation is clearly the best version. It has such a wonderful cast and great wit. Naturally some things from the book were sacrificed for time, but this one gets the spirit of the thing. (Even if all the cast is totally too old.)
Cast cross over: Robert Hardy, Imelda Staunton, Elizabeth Spriggs, Gemma Jones
HP Bonus: Robert Hardy, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Spriggs, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones
The 2008 PBS miniseries is, for me, kind of uninspired. But I do think it's worth watching at least once, if only because it includes some elements the other leaves out (like Miss Steele, who was one of my favorite parts of the book). And if you're one of those Downton people, there's plenty of Dan Stevens.
Pride & Prejudice: We all know the 1995 version is the king here (even though the cast is too old).
I grew up watching the 1980 version, and if the soap opera effect of that era weren't so distracting now, I would probably still find it pretty enjoyable. As for the 2005 movie, I think it's also a great adaptation, especially for a shortened version (and the cast is all the right age!). Each of these version offers something a little different, particularly in the interpretations of Mr. Darcy. Of course, if you're going for something less literary, there's always Bride and Prejudice and the Mormony version as well. I suppose I should mention the 1940 version, but only to say that I don't really care about it...hah.
1995 cast cross over: Anthony Calf, Crispin Bonham Carter, Emilia Fox, Joanna David
1980 cast cross over: David Rintoul
2005 cast cross over: Matthew MacFadyen, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Tom Hollander
Mansfield Park: I have never really been into this story for some reason, and it's her only book I've never read. Of the two versions I've seen, I suppose I prefer the 1999 theatrical one, but I'm sure the 2007 miniseries is more complete.
1999 cast cross over: James Purefoy, Justine Waddell, Amelia Warner, Hugh Bonneville, Sophia Myles, Jonny Lee Miller
Emma: I love the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version best, by far. It's ever so pretty and funny and I want all of her dresses. The cast is so lively, and did I mention it's pretty?
The TV version with Kate Beckinsale (also 1996) is probably more accurate (ie, less pretty), but I've never loved it. The 2009 version with Romola Garai is a longer alternative I say, but really, all you need is Gwyneth.
1996 cast cross over: Sophie Thompson, Polly Walker, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Cumming, Jeremy Northam
1996 cast cross over: Samantha Morton
2009 cast cross over: Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, Jonny Lee Miller, Jodhi May
HP Bonus: Michael Gambon
Northanger Abbey: The latest version from 2007 is kind of the winner by default, but it's enjoyable. The one from 1987 is kind of a hoot though, if only for its soundtrack that features saxophones.
2007 cast cross over: Carey Mulligan
1987 cast cross over: Robert Hardy
HP Bonus: Robert Hardy
Persuasion: The 1995 version is pretty much perfect, I say. It's dim and quiet, which suits the book so well. I know the 2007 adaptation is pretty popular, but I just don't care for it that much. It's not bad by any means, but I don't love the cast.
1995 cast cross over: Ciaran Hinds, Samuel West, Sophie Thompson, Amanda Root
HP Bonus: Fiona Shaw, Sophie Thompson