Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sandotin on PBS - What a Way to End the Story!

This is all my opinion.  When you read the last paragraph of this review you will find how much I loved the ending. Sidney Parker is heroic; and his brother Tom is a selfish, self-involved, self-absorbed man.

If Jane Austen were alive - she would be intensely and immensely displeased. Now, of course, there is an arrogance to assume what a woman who has been dead for 200 years would be thinking, but based on her beloved and timeless body of work we can assume she would not want her work adapted to include numerous points of 21st century ideas, mores and pandering. Some wisdom comes with age and obviously creator Andrew Davies didn't get that memo. Obviously, the creators most likely assumed they would get a second season, so they went for the money option (like Sidney Parker), but only the audience gets duped.

It is not an easy task to commit oneself to adapting a period piece, particularly a romantic period piece. The most classic of all notable romance books is still Jane Austen's poetic, stunning and completely mesmerizing Pride and Prejudice.  Even 200 years after it was written Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy reign supreme in the annals of significant love stories. They were heroic, forthright and stoic. To say we no longer live in this world would be a massive understatement. In many ways, it would be a wonderful world to live in and in other ways - not so much.

Austen herself wrote other delightful and believable romantic dramas, including Emma and Sense and Sensibility. At the time of her death, she was writing Sandotin. Sandotin is the completely "not famous" Austen work, but since period dramas still have a welcoming audience it is not surprising that ITV in the U.K. produced a version.  Sandotin is now on PBS as a Masterpiece theater entry.

As much as I am sucker for this sort of work, this is not exactly what I had hoped for. Ultimately, it is better than Poldark which aired for five seasons beginning in the fall of 2015. The only season of Poldark worth watching was season one. Then it became a weekly fest of extreme boredom. Mines and more mines. Will he or won't he go back to the woman he loved? Will he stay with the gal from the boonies? Mines and more mines!

Rose Williams as Charlotte Heywood

Sandotin looked appealing in the original promo spots; and as I said in the last paragraph I am a sucker for a good period drama. Women want romance! Romance isn't dead. Women still want it! Don't believe those that say otherwise.

Sandotin's casting isn't particularly well done. The heroine, Charlotte Heywood (played by a fluttering and too young Rose Williams) should have been slightly older, but eventually you endorse her presence, because she is spunky, vulnerable yet strong and bright. We certainly don't want this woman/child to end up with the 36 year old adult male who clearly has absolutely no chemistry with her. Charlotte's chemistry is with the young actor who plays Mr. Stringer (Leo Suter). Of course, Mr. Stringer has fallen in love with Charlotte, but she is in love with the man she sort of thought she loathed, but never loathed at all. We fall for this nonsense every time, but if Jane Austen had actually written this piece then we would have loved it, because she totally understood the human mind and Mr. Sidney Parker would have been softer around the edges even though like his pompous ass predecessors we know better.

                                                                   No Chemistry

Kris Marshall shows up as one of the lead characters (Tom Parker) and I like Marshall as an actor. He was delightfully fun in the PBS series Death in Paradise and his casting in this is clever.  Unfortunately, in many ways he plays a villain. He is intensely selfish and has no regard for anyone's feelings. He builds up debt upon debt and then his family pays the price.  The good looking and masculine Theo James is fine in this series, but he doesn't have the heft of what Colin Firth accomplished in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. He plays Sidney Parker (the leading man) and you spend most of the series not liking him at all. With Knightley (Emma) and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) there was always something to like. Sidney has been dumped by another woman and it turns him into a shrew of a man who visits brothels from time to time. Picture Darcy going to a brothel? Wait, Poldark once went to a brothel.  Brothels must be a new hook for period pieces.

The real life wife (Ruth Kearney) of Theo James shows up as the nemesis to our cutesy Charlotte, so now that I know that I just thought - nepotism! She is not a strong actress and while we should dislike this woman intensely (she is an old love of Mr. Sidney Parker, but she dumped him for a rich old man who has now made her a rich widow) she is just an annoyance.

Now before I go on too long, Mr. Sidney Parker ends up with his former galpal (remember she dumped him for money!) and after a long kiss and sharing with Charlotte that he is his best self and his truest self with Charlotte - he dumps her. What is that all about? Am I not watching an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Well, none of that means anything and that is why you know Jane Austen didn't write this back end of the story. She always had happy endings and of course, Charlotte cannot end up with Mr. Stringer since Austen always had her women marry up and Stringer is a budding architect, but currently he is a builder. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Charlotte is a farmer's daughter who likes to read, so pretend she ends up with Stringer (even though she doesn't) and they live happily ever after. By the way, the ending is not gut-wrenching. In many ways, it is downright poetic even though it is not a Jane Austen work.

Jane Austen would never have made a man marry for money. It wasn't her world. It wasn't the society. He may have chosen to marry for money, but forced to marry for money. To add the proverbial insult to injury Sidney Parker tells Charlotte Heywood he loves her and then as she is riding out of town to return to her little family farm he stops the coach to share more intimacies.  Why would he do that? Didn't you hurt this woman enough? Here is season two even though you will never get one. Stringer is already set up to not leave Sanditon so he does pursue Charlotte. Sidney sees them living happy and he gets more and more upset, but he can't divorce his wife (although she might die naturally) so he lives unhappily ever after. Georgiana ends up with Arthur. Susan pays for the Stringer/Charlotte wedding. Good for Stringer!

Now that I have complained, I am going to end this review with a thumbs up for the finale.  Sidney Parker may have walked away from the woman he loved, but in many ways I admire his character more now than I did in the previous seven episodes. This man stood beside his blood family and did his brother (his irresponsible brother) the ultimate favor by sacrificing his own happiness for the honor of family. I now see Sidney Parker as the perfect leading man in this story. Talk about an admirable, respectable and honorable deed.  Charlotte's pain is real and she will need time to heal (I still would rather have her with Mr. Stringer), but Sidney Parker is a man for the ages. A hero indeed even though Jane Austen never would have had a man forced to marry for money.

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