(Previously on By the Book: Austen)
I love Charles Dickens. I haven't read all of his books (hah!) but I've loved each and every one I have read. He was a true master of the English language. Fortunately, he has been treated pretty well by the miniseries makers of the world.
I love the 1995 version. It has a good cast all around, but Andy
Serkis as Bill Sikes is especially terrifying. Masterpiece did another
one in 2007, which is certainly worth a watch but not superior. What isn't worth watching is the 2005 theatrical version, which bored me to tears.
1995 cast cross over: Michael Kitchen, Keira Knightley, Alun Armstrong, Sophia Myles, Andy Serkis, Robert Lindsay
2007 cast cross over: Tom Hardy, Timothy Spall, Edward Fox
HP bonus: Timothy Spall
Nicholas Nickleby: The 2002 theatrical adaptation (brought to you by the same director of Gwyneth's Emma) is my favorite. It has the same liveliness of Emma and a fun cast. The miniseries version of 2001 is also a good one, but not as much fun. Frankly, I have trouble remembering it, but I've only seen it once.
cast cross over: Romola Garai, Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Alan
Cumming, Edward Fox, Sophie Thompson, Jamie Bell, Tom Courtenay, Philip
2001 cast cross over: Sophia Myles, Charles Dance, Pam Ferris, Tom Hollander
HP Bonuses: Timothy Spall, Sophie Thompson, Pam Ferris
Masterpiece's 1999 version is all you need. A bonus is that it
features a wee Daniel Radcliffe in his pre-Harry Potter days. The downside is that the adult David is, um, well. Not cute. I admit I've always been
curious about the 2000 version that features Anthony Andrews and, I
hear, significant plot changes.
Cast cross over: Alun Armstrong, Emilia Fox, Pauline Quirke, Imelda Staunton, Cherie Lunghi, Ian McNeice, Oliver Milburn, Harry Lloyd
HP Bonus: Imelda Staunton, Maggie Smith, Zoë Wanamaker, Daniel Radcliffe, Dawn French
Bleak House!!!!!! The 2005 version is my favorite miniseries of all--it's
intricate, dramatic and rather gloomy, while still having its moments of
humor and, naturally, a vast array of interesting characters. Also, I
must say that Gillian Anderson is glorious in it. Glorious! Also, Guppy. (And seriously, how crazy is it that the cast features Dana Scully and Wedge Antilles??)
Cast cross over:
EVERYONE. Including: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan,
Charles Dance, Burn Gorman, Nathaniel Parker, Gillian Anderson, Philip
Davis, Alun Armstrong, Joanna David
HP Bonus: Richard Griffiths
Little Dorrit: I'm not super into Little Dorrit,
but I never turn down a good Dickens adaptation. The 2008 is a very
good one, even if the story doesn't hook me as much as his others.
Cast cross over: Matthew MacFadyen, Tom Courtenay, Alun Armstrong, Andy Serkis, Bill Patersen, Pam Ferris, Georgia King, Anton Lesser
HP Bonus: Pam Ferris
A Tale of Two Cities: The miniseries from 1989 is one of my favorites. Although, really, there's not many to choose from. Even though it's a little dated and Sydney and Charles really look nothing alike, it's still pretty much perfect. Of course it helps that the source material is excellent.
Great Expectations: I love the 1999 Masterpiece version. It has a great cast and I love the look of it--it's kind of sparse and lonely looking. The more recent Masterpiece version from 2011 is all right, but I think the only thing to really recommend it is Gillian Anderson as Ms. Havisham. Disney also did a version in 1989 that is worth watching also. I'm looking forward to the 2012 movie, which gets huge HP bonus points.
1989 cast cross over: Anthony Calf
1999 cast cross over: Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell, Daniel Evans, Lesley Sharp, Clive Russell
*Emperor Palpatine bonus
2011 cast cross over: Gillian Anderson, David Suchet, Harry Lloyd
Our Mutual Friend: The version from 1999 is kind of a lesser-known gem. It has a fantastic cast, as well as the web of a plot that Dickens does better than anyone. Plus you will learn so much about dust heaps! :D
Cast cross over: Paul McGann, Keeley Hawes, Peter Vaughn, Pam Ferris, Timothy Spall, Anthony Calf, Steven Mackintosh, David Morrissey*
HP Bonus: Pam Ferris, David Bradley
*His role is the reason I can never think well of him as Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. *recoils*
Misc.: My preferred A Christmas Carol (the runner up is, um, Mickey's Christmas Carol), and there have been good adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood recently as well.