8. Love in a Cold Climate (BBC, 1980)
What is it?: An adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s glittering novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.
Why you should watch it: Judi Dench, period dress, witty retorts, and a dysfunctional family who have a secret society. It’s basically perfect. There was a remake in 2001 with Rosamund Pike, which is also quite good.
7. The Ruby in the Smoke (BBC, 2008)
What is it?: An adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Victorian mystery mini-series, featuring whip-smart detective Sally Lockhart.
Why should you watch it: Lockhart (Billie Piper) is sassy, funny and headstrong. And a young Matt Smith crops up as love interest Jim Taylor.
6. Jane Eyre (BBC, 2006)
What is it: Well, it’s a BBC adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Why you should watch it: In contrast to the Mia Wasikowska/Michael Fassbender film version, Jane is pleasingly plain. And Ruth Wilson embodies the quiet dignity of the role - putting Rochester firmly in his place.
5. Great Expectations (BBC, 2011)
What is it? A three-part adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, starring Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, and Ray Winstone as Magwitch.
Why you should watch it: Though Anderson is unconventionally young to play Havisham, she cuts through to the core of the character - meaning you can’t take your eyes off the havoc she is wreaking.
4. Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995)
3. Gormenghast, (BBC/PBS, 2000)
What is it?: A four-part adaptation of the first two novels in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast saga, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Christopher Lee.
Why you should watch it: Gloriously gothic and demented, Gormenghast brings the novels to life. Rhys Meyers is exceptional as the cunning Steerpike, and Lee is unmissable as the disgusting Flay. The series won two BAFTA’s and an Ivor Novello.
2. Brideshead Revisited (Grenada/ITV, 1981)
What is it? A mini-series, adapting Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece - Brideshead Revisited. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews star as Charles and Sebastian.
Why you should watch it: Elegant in its excess, Brideshead illuminates out the halcyon days Charles and Sebastian spend in Oxford, while also shadowing the unhappy Marchmain family. And Aloysius, of course.
1. Bleak House (BBC, 2005)
What is it?: An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ epic Bleak House, starring Gillian Anderson, Carey Mulligan, Charles Dance and Anna Maxwell Martin.
Why you should watch it: Initially, Bleak House was shown on television in 30 minute episodes, to mimic the original serialization of the novel in newspapers. Though there are multiple strands, the tightly plotted storyline weaves them all together. An orphan, a court case, a love story all intertwine for compelling watching. And Gillian Anderson is impeccable as Lady Dedlock.
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