Pride and Prejudice: Originally broadcast from September 24, 1995 to October 29, 1995
Say Pride and Prejudice these days, and it's hard not to think of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The pair have become the definitive Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and not even the likes of Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen could steal their crowns.
Obviously, a lot of the work was already done for the BBC - Jane Austen had written a blindingly good yarn, and there's a lot of story to stick your teeth into. But Pride and Prejudice must have had something else, or why would we still be swooning over the boxset more than 15 years later?
Part of the show's success has to be down to the chemistry between its leads - Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Ehle is the perfect Elizabeth, confident and snarky but still loveable. And as for Firth, he was a revelation as Mr Darcy - grumpy as hell but also kind of attractive. He's the 19th century bad boy.
And it's at this point that we must absolutely mention the iconic moment of Pride and Prejudice - that lake scene. I'm not saying getting his shirt wet is the reason why Colin Firth is now such a huge A-list star, but let's be honest - it had an impact.
Suddenly, after starring in shows like The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (really), Colin was popping up in movies such as The English Patient. That Oscar win this year? It all began with Darcy.
That lake scene is ridiculous - Jane Austen didn't exactly write it, let's put it that way. But for some reason it just works. Funnily enough, Andrew Davies - who wrote the screenplay - intended it to be a humorous, bumbling, awkward moment. Instead, it got women across the country a little hot under the colour and assured Pride and Prejudice's legendary status.
That's really the secret of Pride and Prejudice's success - it's as escapist as you can get. It's comforting. Like modern Sunday night favourite Downton Abbey, it's another world of big dresses and big houses and big carriages; a world where women faint at the slightest provocation; a world where getting a bit wet lands you in bed with a fever; a world where, crucially, love triumphs over all and there's a happy ending.
Yes, we always knew what we'd get with Pride and Prejudice. A lot of us already knew what happened because we'd read the book, but even if you hadn't, you could be certain that there wasn't going to be a massacre at the end where everyone died horribly (I haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies yet, but I'm guessing it might be a bit more brutal.) Sometimes all you want is comfort blanket television, and Pride and Prejudice could provide that.
So we knew we'd get a "happily ever after" conclusion, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a bumpy ride along the way. There were refused proposals, dances, and, of course, the naughty Mr Wickham (elopement and all). Plenty, then, to enjoy. And audiences agreed - millions watched the show, the first run of the original VHS box set sold out within two hours, and awards followed (a BAFTA and an Emmy among them).
What's wonderful about Pride and Prejudice is that it hasn't dated. Watch it today - preferably with a mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day - and you'll enjoy it just as much. Part of that is because of the endless appeal of the costume drama - it's not like the references can become old-fashioned. But it's also due to the wonderful cast, the beautiful cinematography, and the fabulous writing. It's not unheard of for fans to plough through the entire run in one sitting.
And no-one can deny the impact Pride and Prejudice had more generally (and no, we're not just talking about the lake scene). It justified investment in costume drama (and, really, big drama productions in general); further adaptations followed, like the Keira Knightley vehicle or Bollywood-style Bride and Prejudice; and it was even the inspiration for Bridget Jones (which is why casting Colin Firth in the film was so darn inspired).
So go on. Go on! It's getting colder, the nights are drawing in, and Pride and Prejudice is waiting for you on DVD like a nice warm bath. Settle in and enjoy.
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