Pride and Prejudice: 10th Anniversary Edition. BBC, U, 327 mins; Pounds 19.99 ****
With the new film version doing well, the BBC has seized the opportunity to re-release what many regard as the definitive screen account of Jane Austen's great romance. The opportunity to compare and contrast is irresistible.
Sceptical about skinny Keira Knightley's casting as the vivacious, lively eyed, sharp-tongued Elizabeth Bennet? Then here's the rosy-complexioned, dimple cheeked Jennifer Ehle. Want to compare Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen's Mr Darcy? Well, both glower and smoulder, though the former has the advantage of not just an infamous wet-shirt moment -not nearly as exciting as I remembered - but a completely hokum fencing scene, in which he cries "I shall overcome" of his importunate love. Of course, the BBC has the advantage of another 200 or so minutes in which to play out the characters' passions. It is a shame, however, that it did not invest more time on the accompanying extras. In a "making of" documentary the contributions of the designer, producer and writer (Andrew Davies) are interesting enough, but hardly penetrating or revelatory. Meanwhile, of the programme's cast, the only contributions are from Alison Steadman - whose Mrs Bennet many found overbearing - and David Bamber, who makes a most excellent Mr Collins. It's a meagre accompaniment that hardly does justice to this rich, sustaining feast of a literary adaptation. PN
Speaking of Pride and Prejudice, the last two episodes of the series should be screening tonight on BBC4.