A list of British period dramas available to stream and on DVD that were included as part of the BBC Classic Drama Collection of costume dramas: PBS Masterpiece Theatre productions, BBC television mini-series, romances mostly set in the England, UK in the Georgian, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras. We believe this to be the full list of the 71 DVDs (across 37 titles) that were originally part of the subscription. You can read about the collection here.

For the lists of the best period dramas and recommended documentaries in additional eras, wander over to: What To Watch: The Period Films List

Please note that all of the lists have multiple pages. 

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A Christmas Carol (1977) BBC

Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and proved such an enormous success that he followed it with three more Christmas books that combined ghosts with the festive season. The BBC's 1977 adaptation remains one of the most faithful and enjoyable, notable for its strong cast and impressive visual style, inspired in the main part by the original illustrations by John Leech, while the ghost sequences make ingenious use of special effects and impressionistic limbo sets.

This compact adaptation stays very close to the original, reproducing much of the dialogue verbatim. What anchors this adaptation, however, is Michael Hordern's Scrooge. He completely dominates the production, equally convincing as a cynical curmudgeon in the opening scenes and, later, as a panic-stricken old man terrified by the vision of his own dismal death. His final redemption and re-birth as a kinder and more generous human being is appropriately joyous and heart-warming. - Sergio Angelini

Written by Arnoud Tiele and dramatised by Elaine Morgan.

Starring Michael Hordern, John Le Mesurier, Bernard Lee.

Included in the BBC Drama Collection as DVD 36.

Note: This version only seems to be available via the Charles Dickens Complete Movie Collection, and only as PAL (not for North America Region 1 players).

A Tale of Two Cities (1989)

Adapted from Charles Dickens' novel. Two men, one an aristocrat and one a drunken lawyer, fall in love with the same woman during the early stages of the French Revolution.

'Remember always that there is a man who will give his life for you--or anyone you love.' This promise is made by the handsome but dissolute lawyer Sydney Carton to the beautiful Lucie Manette on the eve of her wedding. Lucie loves only her husband, who has renounced his hated family name of St. Evremonde--and with it, his connection with the corrupt French Aristocracy--to live quietly with his new wife as Charles Darnay. Exiled to London, away from the mounting horror of the French Revolution, Darnay and Lucie settle into a happy life caring for her father Dr. Manette. But when Paris erupts in flames and the mob overthrows the old order forever, there is a debt of honor that Charles must pay. To pay it, he must return to France--at the peril of his own life...

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring James Wilby, Xavier Deluc, Serena Gordon, John Mills, Anna Massey.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 41.

Bleak House (2005) BBC

Acclaimed writer Andrew Davies turns his talents to one of Charles Dickens' most brilliant novels, arguably the greatest ever depiction of Victorian London -- from its splendid heights to its most wretched depths.

Honored with a Peabody award and ten Emmy nominations, Bleak House features some of the most famous plot twists in literary history, including a case of human spontaneous combustion and an infamous inheritance dispute that is tied up for generations in the dysfunctional English courts.

An epic feast of characters and storylines, Bleak House is Dickens' passionate indictment of the convoluted legal system that is as searingly relevant today as it was in the mid-19th century. The court of Chancery becomes the center of a tangle of relationships at all levels of society and a metaphor for the decay and corruption at the heart of Victorian England.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, Alun Armstrong, Ian Richardson, Nathaniel Parker, Richard Griffiths, Phil Davis, Joanna David and Carey Mulligan.

Note: Bleak House was filmed on location in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Kent. The exterior of the Dedlock's country house Chesney Wold, was represented by Cobham Hall in Kent, as was the exterior of Mr Tulkinghorn's Office. Cobham Hall was also used for some interiors of Chesney Wold such as the hallway and the staircase. The exterior of Bleak House was represented by Ingatestone Hall in Essex. Other houses used for interior shots and garden locations include Balls Park in Hertfordshire, Bromham Hall in Bromham, Bedfordshire, and Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 8, 9, 10.

Cranford: The Collection (2007) BBC

Cranford: Welcome to Cranford, circa 1840...a rural English town where etiquette rules, undergirded by a healthy amount of gossip. Modernity is making a move in town as construction of a railway comes harrowingly close. Cranford's eclectic residents, among them Matty Jenkyns (Dame Judi Dench) her sister Deborah (Dame Eileen Atkins), and Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), stay immersed in the sweet pleasures and sometimes heartbreaking realities of simple village life. But when a handsome, young doctor arrives with cutting-edge new techniques, it rapidly becomes clear that as the world changes, so Cranford will change with it. Based on three Elizabeth Gaskell novels (Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison's Confessions), and boasting an all-star cast, Cranford breathes life into one town during one extraordinary year.

Return to Cranford: Change is racing towards the small, close-knit village of Cranford like a steam train — quite literally. As the railroad continues to encroach at the edge of town, Cranford strives to open to new realities, from surprising romances to unexpected losses and even waltzing! Matty Jenkyns (Judi Dench), Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), Mrs. Forrester (Julia McKenzie) and Mrs. Jamieson (Barbara Flynn) are back with other distinguished residents of Cranford, along with one well-outfitted and mischievous cow. When a shocking event seemingly derails Cranford from its innocence, can a bit of magic and faith in enduring friendships save the day? Based on the stories of Victorian-era writer Elizabeth Gaskell, Return to Cranford also features Tom Hiddleston (Wallander) and Tim Curry.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, Francesca Annis.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 56, 57, 58.

David Copperfield (1999) BBC

The classic David Copperfield was not just Charles Dickens' favorite work. It has been the most popular of his books since it was first published 150 years ago. Micawber, Peggotty, Betsey Trotwood, Uriah Heep, Mr. Creakle, Mrs. Crupp, and Mr. Dick... never were so many of Dickens' famous and vest-loved characters gathered together in just one of his works.

They are all brought to life by a world-class cast including Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), Oscar-winner Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Bob Hoskins (Hook), Nicholas Lyndhurst (Bullshot) and Pauline Quirke (The Elephant Man) in this sparkling adaptation.

The most autobiographical of Dickens' work, David Copperfield often echoes the writer's own life. It tells a moving story of David's journey from birth to maturity, a journey which inextricably links his life with some of Dickens' most colorful and extraordinary families.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Note: David Copperfield covers a huge time span, from late Georgian and Regency to early Victorian years, from 1812 (Dickens's birth year) to 1846 (David Copperfield's marriage to Agnes and the birth of their first child).

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 3.

Emma (1972) BBC

The key to any Jane Austen adaptation is finding the perfect balance of romantic yearning and savage, satirical wit. Austen's Emma has these two qualities at their most exquisite and tantalizing, and this BBC adaptation from 1972 serves the novel with complete satisfaction. Delightful Doran Godwin captures not only the title character's good nature and resilient will, but also her exasperating self-satisfaction and ungovernable manipulative impulses. Believing herself to be acting in everyone's best interests, Emma takes the lower-class Harriet Smith (Debbie Bowen) under her wing and sets out to find the girl a suitable husband, disregarding what havoc she wreaks along the way. Her foolish father (Donald Eccles) cannot temper Emma's fancies; only the stern Mr. Knightly (John Carson) offers any reason or restraint. This sprightly adaptation is far superior to the mediocre 1996 film (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) and on par with the ingenious Clueless, which cunningly translates the story to a Beverly Hills high school. The luxurious span of a six-part miniseries gives this version the opportunity to revel in Emma's every deliciously misguided moment. --Bret Fetzer

The costumes in the film were designed by Joan Ellacot. Her goal was to make the actors, and indeed the whole production “look as genuine and real as possible.” Towards that end, she chose to replicate the looks of 1815. “It’s easy for today’s audiences to dismiss the old BBC costumes as “polyester specials” because of the dating and dulling effects of the videotape and harsh fluorescence used in taping. However, most of the designs used in this production were well-researched and carefully selected. Many of the costumes were reused in later BBC productions during the 1970’s, notably the 1979 version of Pride & Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvie. As with the other Emmas, the design team chose styles, colors, and accessories to indicate class, age, and personality. Harriet wears youthful, patterned frocks in soft colors and bright bonnets. Emma wears regal styles in sophisticated colors, including an ermine-lined cape and a maroon spencer with appliqued designs. Mrs. Weston wears somber colors in modest styles.” - Laura Boyle

Starring Doran Godwin, Mollie Sugden, Fiona Walker.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 42, 43.

Great Expectations (1999) BBC

Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling star in this adaptation of Charles Dickens' enduring classic Great Expectations, the story of a young orphan named Pip who lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe.

One day Pip is sent to play at the residence of Miss Havisham, a frightening, elderly woman who seems locked in the past. She wears ancient bridal attire and never moves from the dusty upper rooms of her home. Miss Havisham's beautiful but contemptuous ward, Estella, makes Pip feel appallingly inferior, creating in him a desire to better himself—changing his life forever. But despite his efforts to improve himself, the frustrated Pip seems destined to remain Joe's apprentice. Until one day a lawyer calls to inform Pip that he has "great expectations:" Pip is to be released form his apprenticeship and educated in London as a gentleman! The benefactor who has made this life transformation possible, however, wishes to remain anonymous.

Great Expectations is a BBC AMERICA and WGBH Boston coproduction.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell, Charlotte Rampling.

Note: At the start of Great Expectations, Pip is aged seven, the year approximately 1814. (A reference to Pip at nearly twenty-one, in a street illuminated by gas-lamps which were not introduced until 1827, tells us that Pip’s was born in approximately 1807.) Pip is about 34 years old at the end of the story when he returns to England to see Joe, Biddy and their children, placing the date around 1841. Our narrator is telling his story in 1860. So by Willow and Thatch’s calculations, Great Expectations spans the Regency, Georgian and Victorian eras.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 33.

He Knew He Was Right (2004) BBC

Behind their neat facades of Victorian propriety, Anthony Trollope's characters are bursting with life. A flirtatious vicar, two squabbling sisters, an ingenue and her meddling aunt... these are the friends and relations who surround Louis and Emily Trevalyan in the first blissful year of their married life. But things take a darker turn when the roguish Colonel Osborne (Bill Nighy) takes an interest in Emily, and, flattered by the resulting gossip, fans the flames of Louis's jealousy.

Novelist Anthony Trollope doesn't have the name recognition of his Victorian contemporary Charles Dickens, but he has all of Dickens's strengths and more--invigorating plots, eccentric characters bursting with life, and an insightful, panoramic view of English society. He Knew He Was Right starts with an idyllic romance between the well-off Louis Trevelyan (Oliver Dimsdale) and Emily Rowley (Laura Fraser). But when the rakish Col. Osborne (Bill Nighy, Love Actually) begins to visit her regularly, Louis becomes jealous--and the pressures of Victorian society soon turn this jealousy into an all-consuming possession that could destroy the lives of Louis, Emily, and their young son. This dark and harrowing story is deftly juxtaposed with two related tales: A blithely flirtatious clergyman finds himself fought over by a pair of squabbling sisters and a young woman struggles to find happiness despite the controlling grip of her miserly spinster aunt (the always superb Anna Massey, Angels & Insects, The Importance of Being Earnest).

The cast delivers wonderfully comic or heartbreaking performances, but much of this four-episode series' power comes from yet another outstanding adaptation by screenwriter Andrew Davies, who wrote the scripts for such BBC miniseries as Moll Flanders, Vanity Fair, and the hugely popular version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. The combination of Davies and Trollope results in a work of psychological depth, sly humor, and sheer storytelling mastery--just when you've decided someone is virtuous or odious, that character upends your judgment with an act unexpected yet completely plausible. He Knew He Was Right provides the pleasures of a thriller, a social satire, and a whirling romance. --Bret Fetzer

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Bill Nighy, Oliver Dimsdale, Laura Fraser, Cole Natalie.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 39, 40.

Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1997) A&E BBC

This lavish costume drama in the grand old traditions of the BBC is a fresh and vivid dramatisation of Henry Fielding's ribald and rowdy tale. It follows the life of young Tom, who, as a new-born child, is taken in by the kindly Squire Allworthy. Reaching adulthood, Tom (Max Beesley) discovers a penchant for the ladies and he is thrown from his home after a dalliance with a local girl. However, his real love Sophia (Samantha Morton) marries Tom's loathsome cousin, and so he sets out on a series of adventures (and misadventures) to win her back. A ribald and rowdy romp through the mansions and taverns of Georgian England. Henry Fielding's fallen hero bed-hops his way out of a good home and almost into a hangman's noose, via a series of misadventures and misunderstandings. This big budget production boasts a strong supporting cast featuring the likes of June Whitfield and John Sessions.

"It is not enough that your actions are good. You must take care that they appear so." This is one lesson that plucky orphan Tom Jones (Max Beesley, a dead ringer for Ewan McGregor) never learns, charging through life with his chin up and his libido unchecked. With tongue firmly in cheek, narrator Henry Fielding (John Sessions) walks us through this randy satire like a tour guide, proffering introductions and amusing observations as he tours the drama. Beesley is all charm and earthy sincerity as handsome Tom, with Samantha Morton a determined, elegant, and deliciously funny Sophia and red-faced Brit stalwart Brian Blessed (Black Adder) as her blustery, bellowing pater. Comparisons to Tony Richardson's hearty interpretation are inevitable: this 1997 miniseries favors dry wit and understated asides to Richardson's knockabout comedy and high energy, and it's a delight from start to its improbably (and delightfully) contrived conclusion. --Sean Axmaker

The A&E and BBC co-production is a rollicking, risque, six-hour dramatization of Henry Fielding's picaresque novel, "Tom Jones." Set in 18th century England, "Tom Jones" chronicles the sexy, silly and funny adventures of a handsome, charming foundling with a heart of gold (Max Beesley), who can't stay out of trouble or out of women's boudoirs. Delia Fine, vice president of film, drama and performing arts for A&E, believes this version is much more akin to the book in tone and spirit than the 1963 film. - LA Times

Set in 1745.

Starring Max Beesley, Samantha Morton, John Sessions, Benjamin Whitrow, Ron Cook.

Note: Also known as The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 17, 18.

Jane Eyre (2006) BBC

After a wretched childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre yearns for new experiences. She accepts a governess position at Thornfield Hall, where she tutors a lively French girl named Adele. She soon finds herself falling in love with the brooding master of the house - the passionate Mr. Rochester. Jane gradually wins his heart, but they must overcome the dark secrets of the past before they can find happiness. When Jane saves Rochester from an eerie fire, she begins to suspect that there are many mysteries behind the walls of Thornfield Hall. Her fears are confirmed when Rochester's secret past is revealed, destroying her chance for happiness, and forcing Jane to flee Thornfield. Penniless and hungry, she finds shelter and friendship in the shape of a kind clergyman and his family. But she is soon shocked to uncover the deeply hidden truth of her own past. This lavish and sensual new version of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel is modern and moody, timeless and romantic. Starring Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester, Ruth Wilson as Jane, and Francesca Annis as Lady Ingram.

You may think the world doesn't need another adaptation of Jane Eyre--but you're wrong. This new and wonderfully lush Masterpiece Theatre version, directed by Susanna White (who directed the equally sumptuous miniseries of Bleak House starring Gillian Anderson), contrasts Jane Eyre's vivid inner life with the harshness of her outer life; both Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia) as the young Jane and newcomer Ruth Wilson express the inner vitality of the outcast orphan girl whose spirit captures the heart of the rough, charismatic landowner Mr. Rochester (Toby Stephens, Die Another Day). Stephens, it must be said, is far too conventionally handsome for the part, but he makes up for it by capturing Rochester's abrasive and mercurial temperament. (Wilson's looks are perfect; at one moment she seems awkward and homely, at another utterly luminous.) Jane Eyre is so often remade because the story is so potent; this production brings all of the novel's juice and passion to the fore, emphasizing the characters' sensual experience while staying true to the restrictions and mores of the period. All in all, exceptional. --Bret Fetzer

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Ruth Wilson, Toby Stephens, Amy Steel, Jacqueline Pilton, Anne Reid.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 34, 35.

Lark Rise to Candleford: The Complete Collection (2008) BBC

Flora Thompson's charming love letter to a vanished corner of rural England is brought to life in this warm-hearted adaptation.

Set in the Oxfordshire countryside in the 1880s, this rich, funny and emotional series follows the relationship of two contrasting communities: Lark Rise, the small hamlet gently holding on to the past, and Candleford, the small market town bustling into the future. Seen through the eyes of young Laura, their inhabitants endure many upheavals and struggles as the inexorably change comes; their stories by turns poignant, spirited and uplifting. And Laura herself must face great change.

Taking a job in Post Office in Candleford, run by the mercurial Dorcas, she turns her back on her childhood hamlet to make her way in the world. With her loyalties divided, she must choose her own path to womanhood...

Starring Linda Bassett, Claudie Blakley, Brendan Coyle, John Dagleish, Fergus Drysdale, Dawn French, Olivia Hallinan, Victoria Hamilton, Mark Heap, Karl Johnson, Thomas Rhys Jones, Sarah Lancashire, Alan Grint, Charles Palmer, David Innes Edwards, David Tucker, John Greening, Julian Holmes, Marc Jobst, Maurice Phillips.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 50, 51, 52, 53 (and also as 68 - 71).

Little Dorrit (2008) BBC

Amy Dorrit's (Claire Foy) gentle spirit has never been dampened by the confining walls of the Marshalsea Prison she's lived in her whole life. Despite the dark shadow of debtor's prison, Amy lovingly cares for her father William Dorrit (Tom Courtenay), the longest serving inmate. A possibly redemptive light unexpectedly shines in the form of Arthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen), who has been left with the intriguing threads of a mystery after his father's death — threads that will intertwine his family and fate with the Dorrits. Clennam's exhaustive search for answers involves murder, fortunes gained and lost, the upper echelons and lowest dregs of society, and most surprising of all, a tender romance. Adapted by Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice), Little Dorrit, based on the book by Charles Dickens, is a sprawling story as timely as it is moving.

Acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House) brings to DVD an all new Dickens adaptation starring Academy Award Nominee Tom Courtenay (The Golden Compass), Matthew Macfadyen (MI-5, Pride and Prejudice) and newcomer Claire Foy (Being Human). This gripping new series brings to life Dickens's powerful story of struggle and hardship in 1820s London. When Arthur Clennam (Macfadyen) returns to England after many years abroad, his curiosity is piqued by the presence in his mother's house of a young seamstress, Amy Dorrit (Foy). His quest to discover the truth about "Little Dorrit" takes him to the Marshalsea Debtors Prison, where he discovers that the dark shadows of debt stretch far and wide. Filled with humorous yet tragic characters, Little Dorrit is a stirring rags to riches to rags story, exposing the underbelly of nineteenth century British society as only Charles Dickens can.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 59, 60, 61, 62.

Lorna Doone (2000) BBC

Lorna Doone is a passionate love story set in 17th century rural England, charting the young John Ridd's search for revenge after his father's murder, and the chance encounter with beautiful Lorna Doone that changes the course of his life.

Star-crossed lovers, feuding family, royal plots, noble destinies, and salt-of-the-earth heroes. No wonder R.D. Blackmore's romantic classic has been a perennial favorite. Amelia Warner (Michael Caine's innocent child bride in Quills) is Lorna, the beautiful young brunette "queen" of the feral Doone clan in this latest adaptation, a handsome 2.5-hour co-production between the BBC and A&E. The once noble line now lives out of a swamp fortress and preys off the local farmers and tradesmen, but the family patriarch (Peter Vaughan) has hatched a plot to win back his title and his land. Handsome John Ridd (Richard Coyle) swears vengeance against the Doones when they murder his father, but he falls for Lorna, and the rakish, ruthless Doone scion (Aiden Gillen, who swaggers through the drama with a perpetual sneer) refuses to give up his claim on the girl without a fight.

This is the kind of British romantic adventure that decries the tradition of nobility and privilege while rewarding its heroes with those very privileges, all within a grand framework of melodramatic twists, thrilling battles, and chivalrous heroics. Director Mike Barker creates an appropriately larger-than-life world at once pastoral and savage for his little epic--shot in the verdant British countryside, where a lush forest green permeates every outdoor scene, while the dusky interiors glow with candlelight--giving in completely to the sweeping emotional melodrama at the core of the story. --Sean Axmaker

Starring Neil Finnighan, Jack Baverstock, Trevor Cooper, Aidan Gillen, Ruth Sheen.

Note: Lorna Doone was published in 1869 and takes place in Devon and Somerset, particularly around the East Lyn Valley area of Exmoor, but the television drama was filmed more than 150 miles north on the Brecon Beacons, in Wales.

The narrator, John Ridd, says he was born on 29 November 1661; in Chapter 24, he mentions Queen Anne as the current monarch, so the time of narration is 1702–1714 making him 40–52 years old. He recounts details of the story as early as 1673 and as late as 1686. Blackmore incorporated real events and places into the novel.

According to the preface, the work is a romance and not a historical novel, because the author neither "dares, nor desires, to claim for it the dignity or cumber it with the difficulty of an historical novel." As such, it combines elements of traditional romance, of Sir Walter Scott's historical novel tradition, of the pastoral tradition, of traditional Victorian values, and of the contemporary sensation novel trend. The basis for Blackmore's historical understanding is Macaulay's History of England and its analysis of the Monmouth rebellion. Along with the historical aspects are folk traditions, such as the many legends based around both the Doones and Tom Faggus.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 12.

Madame Bovary (2000) BBC

Frances O'Connor (Mansfield Park) plays literature's most famous adulteress in this sensuous adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. The scandalous classic that was tried for obscenity in French court in 1857 also stars Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility) as Emma Bovary's virile lover Rodolphe. Hugh Bonneville (Mansfield Park) plays Emma's oblivious but devoted husband, Charles. Set in rural Normandy in the 1830s and '40s, the story follows Emma's dreamy and ultimately disastrous quest for the ecstatic experiences she finds in books. Reality in the provinces can't possibly live up to her illusions, so she falls prey to seducers and swindlers.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring: Frances O’Connor, Hugh Bonneville, Eileen Atkins, Greg Wise, Keith Barron, Hugh Dancy, Trevor Peacock, David Troughton, Joe McGann, Barbara Jefford, Jessica Oyelowo, Joe Roberts, Mary MacLeod, Claire Hackett, Phillip Manikum, Willie Ross, Jenny Howe, Marian Diamond, Adam Cooper, Stanley Lebor, Desmond Barrit, Thomas Wheatley and Roy Macready.

Note: Madame Bovary was filmed in the Norman countryside that Flaubert depicts so vividly in his novel. "We found one of the little towns that he certainly used as a study for his scenes of village life," says producer Tony Redston. "We also shot in Rouen, so that Emma and Léon meet in the Rouen cathedral just as they do in the book and then have their celebrated cab ride through the same streets." Redston notes that the costumes reflect provincial fashions of the day, as well as the Parisian mode that Emma aspired to. "And we follow Flaubert's color symbolism," he adds. "You will see that blue and yellow are very significant colors for Emma," he hints.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 32.

Mansfield Park (1983) BBC

Jane Austen's story of virtue and vice tells of young and impoverished Fanny Price who arrives at the elegant country estate of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram. True virtue triumphs over superficiality in this distinguished BBC production of Jane Austen's celebrated novel. Snubbed by everyone except her cousin, Edmund, Fanny begins her long struggle for acceptance by her shallow relatives who believe wealth automatically means quality. When Fanny finally wins the respect of her snobbish relatives, she incurs the displeasure of her uncle by rejecting the handsome philanderer Henry Crawford because she has fallen in love with Edmund.

Starring Anna Massey, Angela Pleasence and Sylvestra Le Touzel.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 26, 27.

Martin Chuzzlewit (1994) BBC

Martin Chuzzlewit is an old man with a large fortune and an even larger set of family and friends. A portrait of greed and selfishness, this magnificent adaptation of Dickens' comic masterpiece features an all-star cast.

Greed, selfishness, and hypocrisy drive another rollicking story from Charles Dickens. Martin Chuzzlewit features two Martin Chuzzlewits: An elderly and extremely wealthy one (the magnificent Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons), who loathes the sleazy, grasping relatives that hope to profit from his death; and his grandson (Ben Walden), a well-intentioned but self-absorbed young man who has fallen in love with his grandfather's ward, Mary Graham (Pauline Turner)--and because the elder Martin disapproves, the younger Martin has been disowned. In the gap between these two are a host of schemers, crooks, and even one or two good people--but at the center of it all is the pompous and oily Seth Pecksniff (Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), whose manipulations and lechery make him one of Dicken's most memorable villains. Whirling in his orbit are the goodhearted but ineffectual Tom Pinch (Philip Franks); the brutish Jonas Chuzzlewit (Keith Allen); Pecksniff's daughters, the "volatile hummingbird" Mercy (Julia Sawalha, Absolutely Fabulous) and the bitter, overlooked Charity (Emma Chambers, The Vicar of Dibley); and a host of other vivid Dickensian creations, all given juice and vitality by dozens of outstanding British actors, anchored by Scofield's magisterial presence. Because of his characters' outsized personalities and his plots' wild reversals of fortune, Dickens is ideally suited to dramatization, and Martin Chuzzlewit takes full advantage of his strengths. Lurid events like murder and blackmail contrast with rich psychological portraits, making Martin Chuzzlewit an opulent narrative feast. --Bret Fetzer

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Tom Wilkinson, Julia Sawalha, Emma Chambers, Keith Allen, Paul Scofield, Ben Walden.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 19, 20.

Middlemarch (1994) BBC

The 1994 production of Middlemarch juxtaposes morals and money, grand ambitions with petty jealousies, and pursuits of the mind with bodily needs. A handsome young doctor named Lydgate (Douglas Hodge, Vanity Fair) comes to the provincial town of Middlemarch to start a new hospital; a headstrong young woman named Dorothea (Juliet Aubrey, The Mayor of Casterbridge) yearns to contribute to the greater good of the world. These idealists enter into marriages that derail all their intentions and lead them into lives they never imagined. The network of characters in this six-episode program, ranging up and down the societal ladder, create an intricate and utterly engrossing narrative as well as a magnificent recreation of life on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution.

The cast, from the largest to the smallest roles, is impeccable. When a scene turns to a character you've only glimpsed before, the precision of the writing (by miniseries master Andrew Davies, Pride and Prejudice) and the vivid performances suck you into the life of this person who seemed like mere background scenery only moments before. The cumulative impact of Eliot's story will leave you gasping at its brilliant balance of romance and reality. Performers include creepy Patrick Malahide (The Singing Detective) and sexy Rufus Sewell (Dark City) among the familiar faces of dozens of inspired character actors. Don't let the literary pedigree of Middlemarch scare you off--the plot is as juicy as a soap opera, with a psychological fullness that makes every dramatic turn all the more gripping.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Rufus Sewell, Juliet Aubrey, Robert Hardy, Douglas Hodge, Patrick Malahide.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 13, 14.

North and South (2004) BBC

As the daughter of a middle-class parson, Margaret Hale has enjoyed a privileged upbringing in rural southern England. When her father uproots the family to take work in the northern mill town of Milton, Margaret is shocked by the dirt, the noise and the gruffness of the people, but she reserves her highest contempt for the charismatic mill-owner John Thornton.

North & South is a splendid, four-hour adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's 19th century novel about an unlikely, and somewhat star-crossed, love between a middle-class young woman from England's cultivated south and an intemperate if misunderstood industrialist in a hardscrabble, northern city. Daniela Denby-Ashe plays Margaret Hale, forthright and strong-willed daughter of a former vicar (Tim Pigott-Smith) who relocates his family from a pastoral village outside London to unforgiving, largely illiterate Milton, a factory town where John Thornton (Richard Armitage) and his mother (Sinead Cusack), survivors of poverty, rule their cotton mill with an iron hand. Thornton befriends Margaret's father but incurs her wrath for his severity with his workers. What she doesn't notice is Thornton's core sense of responsibility for his employees' welfare. On the other hand, he misinterprets some of Margaret's own actions and intentions. Equally stubborn, the two drag out their obvious attraction over many painful months and events.

North & South's two leads are both very good, though Armitage's brooding, penetrating performance may very well be considered a classic one day. There are other wonders in the cast: Cusack and Pigott-Smith are superb, and Brendan Coyle is memorable as a firebrand union organizer who ultimately becomes an ally to a softening Thornton. The miniseries script by Sandy Welch is a persuasive mix of historical context and character study. Brian Percival's direction is full of moments that linger in the imagination, such as the winter-dream look of a busy cotton mill, with thousands of snowy fibers floating in the air. --Tom Keogh

Starring Daniela Denby-ashe, Richard Armitage, Sinead Cusack, Tim Pigott-smith.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 6, 7.

Northanger Abbey (1986) BBC

Jane Austen goes Gothic in this darkly dramatic rendering of her Northanger Abbey, a novel that wasn't published until after her early and sudden death. Austen pokes fun at her peers in this story, in which her heroine, Catherine Morland (Katharine Schlesinger), is hopelessly addicted to macabre romance novels that wreak havoc on her imagination. She comes from a large, but loving family, and she's taken, as a companion, to the decadent society of Bath. There, she meets the duplicitous Thorpe siblings, Isabella (Cassie Stuart) and John (Jonathan Coy), and the kindly Tilney sister and brother, Eleanor (Ingrid Lacey) and Henry (Peter Firth). The Tilneys also have an elder brother, the snobbish soldier Frederick (Greg Hicks), and an oddly eerie father, General Tilney (Robert Hardy). Needless to say, all this provides plenty of fodder for fantasies and Catherine comes up with many, even imagining all sorts of evils on a visit to the Tilney family home, Northanger Abbey. The soundtrack is more than a little melodramatic, but it's best to think of it as a humorous touch rather than a serious, punctuating one. --N.F. Mendoza

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Katherine Schlesinger, Peter Firth, Googie Withers, Robert Hardy.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 23.

Oliver Twist (1985) BBC

The second British miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel {-Oliver Twist} aired over the BBC in 1985. Ben Rodska essays the title character, a much-maligned orphan boy who, unbeknownst to himself, is heir to a vast fortune. Before finding this out, Oliver falls into the clutches of the delightfully wicked pickpocket Fagin (Eric Porter) and the wholly evil outlaw Bill Sikes (Michael Attwell). Other familiar characters include the insouciant street urchin Artful Dodger (David Garlick), the tragic Nancy Sykes (Amanda Harris), benevolent Mr. Brownlow (Frank Middlemass), and the aptly named Bumble the Beadle (Godfrey James). Running for six half-hour episodes, Oliver Twist was later shown in the U.S. as part of the PBS anthology Wonderworks. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Starring Ben Rodska, Eric Porter, Lysette Anthony.

Note: This adaption perhaps follows the book more closely than any of the other film adaptions.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 24, 25.

Our Mutual Friend (1998) BBC

From the dark waters of Victorian London, Charles Dickens weaves a tale of crime and compassion. Poor Lizzie and her father eke out a living on the banks of the Thames until one day they recover a body that links them with another world - the world of dinner parties and the household of the Wilfers. As their lives intertwine a complex story of money and love emerges. Directed by Julian Farino.

One of Charles Dickens' darkest yet also most romantic novels gets a lavish treatment in this BBC mini-series of Our Mutual Friend. The heir to a great fortune made from the garbage business is drowned--and his death affects everyone. His father's manager, Noddy Boffin (Peter Vaughan, Brazil), gets the money, to the alarm of snooty society. The man who pulled the heir's body out of the Thames is accused of his murder; his daughter, Lizzie Hexam (Keeley Hawes, Tipping the Velvet), finds herself pursued by both an idle gentleman (Paul McGann, Withnail & I) and an obsessed, violent schoolteacher (David Morrissey, Basic Instinct 2). The heir's intended bride, Bella Wilfer (Anna Friel, Me Without You, gets socially adopted by the Boffins, where she succumbs to the lure of money above all and spurns the interest of a mysterious stranger (Steven Mackintosh, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels). The plot creeps up and down London society like a tenacious plant, twining around a pair of golddiggers who mistakenly married each other and a heartsick bone merchant named Mr. Venus (Timothy Spall, Secrets & Lies). This excellent adaptation moves with aggressive speed, drawing the viewer into the grimy worlds of the riverside and the dust heaps and the glittering, gossiping parties of the rich. Our Mutual Friend balances one of Dickens' most entrancing love stories with his creepiest gothic turns--it's a rich stew of characters both earnest and vile, made with sumptuous production values and movie-quality cinematography. --Bret Fetzer

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring: Paul McGann, Keeley Hawes, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh, Peter Vaughan, Pam Ferris and David Morrissey.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 28, 29.

Persuasion (1995) BBC

A young couple's stormy romance scandalizes English society in this acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austen's classic love story. Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds of the Royal Shakespeare Company are the star-crossed lovers, Anne and Wentworth, whose passion is thwarted by a scheming socialite. Eight yearslater, when Anne is considered an old maid and her once-rich family is on the verge of bankruptcy, Wentworth returns. Will their second chance at love be ruined by the social conventions that destroyed it once? Or will the heart be persuaded by rules of its own? Adding flirtatious fun to Austen's irresistible romance, PERSUASION takes your breathe away! A dazzling five-star feast.

Everything depends on Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in the key roles, and they are well cast as people who might not be everybody's idea of perfection, but are each other's. All of society seems arrayed against them - not through prejudice, not through ill-will, but through inhibition and hateful ground rules that prohibit them from speaking easily about the only subject that interests them, their future together. Much of the movie's emotional work has to be done by their faces and eyes, while other people speak of other things, and to see that happening is frustrating, because it happens so slowly, and romantic, because it happens at all. - Roger Ebert

Originally the BBC was the sole producer of Persuasion, until it partnered with the American company WGBH Boston and the French company Millesime.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds and Susan Fleetwood.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 46.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) BBC A&E

The arrival of two handsome and eligible bachelors, Mr. Bingley (Crispin Bonham Carter) and Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth, Bridget Jones films), stirs romantic imaginings for the girls of the Bennet household. Jane Bennet (Susannah Harker, House of Cards) seemingly strikes an immediate connection, while Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia) finds the path to love more tortuous. Just when it seems true and abiding matches might emerge, a family scandal threatens to ruin everything. With a screenplay by Andrew Davies, Pride and Prejudice is the definitive adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel.

The landmark A&E and the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has taken its place as one of the greatest television productions of all time. With a masterful script, deft direction and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet - spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters - is determined to wed for love, not money or privilege. Featuring over an hour of never-before-seen bonus features, the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: KEEPSAKE EDITION is the definitive way to experience one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 1, 2.

Pygmalion (1973) BBC

Based on a classical myth and the inspiration for My Fair Lady, Pygmalion is Shaw's most familiar and popular work. Of all of Shaw's plays, Pygmalion is without the doubt the most beloved and popularly received, if not the most significant in literary terms. Pygmalion takes place in London, England in the early twentieth century.

One of the finest television adaptations of George Bernard Shaw's 1912 class satire, this 1973 British production of Pygmalion stars Lynn Redgrave as a marvelously accessible, non-cartoonish, and likable Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl who becomes the subject of a socio-scientific experiment by phonetics expert Henry Higgins (James Villiers). Betting that he can turn the yowling, filthy guttersnipe Eliza into a proper lady who can pass herself off as an aristocrat, Higgins puts the poor girl through some difficult paces, then develops an affection for her that he's ill-equipped to show. Ronald Fraser is on hand as Colonel Pickering, the warm and considerate Watson to Higgins' imperious Holmes. (Fraser would play Pickering again in a 1981 TV version.) Emrys James is wonderful as Eliza's father, a chimney sweep who laments the fact that Higgins' influence has inadvertently turned him into a middle-class patriarch with unwanted responsibilities. Shaw's piercing comedy about the limits of class and personal character, and their impact on one another is both potent and enjoyable in this excellent showcase. A bonus: a 60-minute, 1983 television version of Shaw's Androcles and the Lion, starring Billy Connolly. --Tom Keogh

Starring Lynn Redgrave, James Villiers, Ronald Fraser, Lally Bowers, Angela Baddeley, Nicholas Jones, and Emrys James.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 65 along with Mrs. Warren's Profession - George Bernard Shaw (1972), Starring Coral Browne, Derek Godfrey, James Grout, Shaw's play, written in 1893, but banned until 1925, is undoubtedly tame by today's standards, but its ideas, passionately debated by mother and daughter, are still provocative.

Sense and Sensibility (2008) BBC

From acclaimed writer Andrew Davies (BBCs Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth) comes this enchanting new adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel about love and marriage. Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve when she falls in love with the charming but unsuitable John Willoughby, ignoring her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Elinor, sensitive to social convention, struggles to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Will the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love?

Lush, dramatic, and beautifully acted, the BBC's three-part miniseries Sense & Sensibility captures the languid urgency that resonates throughout the Jane Austen novel on which it is based. The miniseries begins with a seduction scene: As a young girl cautiously gives herself to a man, she asks, "But when will you come back?" He answers ominously, "Soon... very soon," and gallops off into the night. We know what she does not--that he will not return for her. But viewers do not learn until the end who the couple are, and how their actions set off a chain of events. It is inevitable that this period piece will be compared to the 1995 big screen adaptation that starred Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant, and won Thompson an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. To its credit, this later version stands up incredibly well, with actors whose looks match Austen's written description. And due to a longer running time than the film version, there is more attention paid to detail and minor characters.

Not part of the BBC Classic Drama Collection: Austen fans will be delighted with the second disc in this set: Miss Austen Regrets is a perfect companion to the miniseries, starring Olivia Williams stars as the author, and Greta Scacchi--who could easily pass as Williams' real-life sibling--as Austen's sister Cassandra. The film takes a bittersweet look at Austen's life and hints at what could have been had she married one of her suitors. Smart and headstrong, Austen refuses to cave into society's notions of what a proper woman should do. While her famous heroines all paired up with dashing gentlemen, Austen found that the loves of her life were her written creations. --Jae-Ha Kim

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, Dominic Cooper, David Morrissey (Sense and Sensibility) and Samuel Roukin, Olivia Williams, Greta Scacchi (Miss Austen Regrets).

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 37, 38.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (2008) BBC

A passionate, sensual and very modern version of Thomas Hardy's infamous novel, combining young, upcoming acting talent with recognisable and much-loved faces. When the beautiful and innocent Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting the manipulative Alec proves to be her downfall.

Ten years passed since the last production of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, then starring Justine Waddell, and this four-episode miniseries based on Thomas Hardy’s Victorian novel does well, again, by sticking closely to the original plot. As far as literary characters go, Tess warns young women to the wild ways of men and inspires all to strive for honesty. The morality implicit to the story is made apparent in this BBC version, and leaves the viewer questioning the effectiveness of Tess’s stringent moral sense, especially by today’s different sexual standards. Tess, in 2008, seems permanently punished for something that not only was not her fault, but also that may be unfortunately more common than perhaps it once was, namely teenage pregnancy. Episode One launches directly into Tess’s early meeting of her true love, the seemingly heroic Angel Clare (Eddie Redmayne). But her family’s poverty trumps the crush; once her robust parents John Durbeyfield (Ian Puleston-Davies) and Joan Durbeyfield (Ruth Jones) discover their hereditary ties to the royal d’Urbervilles, they send Tess off to a mansion to inquire for work. It is there that she encounters the villainous predator, Alec d’Urberville (Hans Matheson), and the tensions between a story about an upwardly mobile lady and a lady doomed by fate begins to take hold. This version of the story explores less its sexual connotations, as does Roman Polanski’s Tess, relying more heavily on the scales shifting hour to hour from fortune to failure and back. Well-worth every moment to be reminded of the ways this classic tale lives on in its application to contemporary life. --Trinie Dalton

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Starring Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne, Ruth Jones and Hans Matheson.

Note: Filmed on location in the English counties of Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset (all in the West Country), a large percentage of scenes were filmed outside, reflecting Hardy's love of nature and the seasons. Filmed entirely on 35mm film, with stunning results.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 54, 55.

The Barchester Chronicles (1982) BBC

The Rev. Septimus Harding is a widower who is canon of the cathedral and warden of its hospital (inhabited by 12 ancient pensioners). His serene life, dedicated to his duties, is shattered when a young reform-minded surgeon, John Bold, publicly accuses him of cheating the pensioners. Complicating the situation is that the surgeon and Harding's younger daughter, Eleanor, have fallen in love and that Bold's campaign to force the warden to resign is sensationalized by a zealous investigative reporter...

The first two episodes of this BBC miniseries only hint at the delights to come. A lawsuit aimed at church reform in the town of Barchester forces a decent middle-aged clergyman (the august Donald Pleasence, best known in the U.S. for the Halloween movies) into a moral crisis and a conflict with his son-in-law, a pompous archdeacon (Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George). The gracefully written and acted narrative shows glimpses of dry wit--but in episode 3, the arrival of a new bishop (Clive Swift, Keeping Up Appearances), his imperious wife (Geraldine McEwan, The Magdalene Sisters), and his devious chaplain (Alan Rickman, Truly Madly Deeply, the Harry Potter movies) launches The Barchester Chronicles into a satirical power struggle all the more mesmerizing because of the smallness of the territory. The scheming of the citizens and clergy of this British town is both Byzantine and wonderfully comic as the tempestuous personalities claw and dig at each other.

Rickman, in one of his first film or television roles, turns in a tour de force of oily ambition. McEwan's ferocious machinations are downright terrifying, while the sputtering Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) seems constantly in danger of bursting a vein. At the center of it all is Pleasence. Making goodness compelling has always been difficult, since wickedness is always more dramatic; but Pleasence brings a deep and stirring passion to his role that proves as engaging as all the back-biting that surrounds him. And these are just the more familiar faces; a host of lesser-known actors give equally superb performances. The final episode (of seven) will have you on pins and needles. The Barchester Chronicles, adapted from two novels by Anthony Trollope, is one of those marvels of British television, a skillful production that proves intelligent fare can be hugely entertaining. --Bret Fetzer

Set in Salisbury, England in 1855.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Alan Rickman, Nigel Hawthorne, Susan Hampshire, Donald Pleasence, Geraldine Mc Ewan.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 63, 64.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1986) BBC

Writer Oscar Wilde's sparkling wit is on full display in this two-play collection from the long-running BBC series "Play of the Month." In "The Importance of Being Earnest," two bachelors discover that a little deception goes a long way when it comes to romance. Let the BBC transport you back to the decadent aristocratic drawing rooms of 1890s England. Lovingly restored for DVD, these plays feature a who's who of great actors of the British stage and screen.

Starring John Woodnutt, Rupert Frazer, Paul McGann.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 67, along with The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1976) starring Charles Aidman, William Beckley. The Picture of Dorian Gray's tells the story of a decadent title character whose portrait turns into a fountain of youth.

The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978) BBC

As an adaptation of a classic, this BBC dramatization of Thomas Hardy's heart-wrenching novel is remarkably loyal to the original. The incomparable Alan Bates (Gosford Park) manages to make the mature Michael Henchard, the flawed protagonist, sympathetic, despite his galling youthful misdeeds. Anna Massey (The Importance of Being Earnest) is his poignant co-star. This literate series captures the melancholy fatalism that distinguishes Hardy's work from that of his fellow Victorians. 5 hours 50 min.

Alan Bates gives a fierce, uncompromising performance in The Mayor of Casterbridge, a skillful miniseries adapted from Thomas Hardy's classic novel. The arrogant Michael Henchard (Bates), in a foul drunken mood, sells his long-suffering wife Susan (Anne Stallybrass) and infant daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor at a country fair. Henchard awakens the next morning stricken with remorse; he vows not to drink again for 21 years. Eighteen years later, Susan returns to find him, with Elizabeth-Jane (Janet Maw) in tow; Henchard receives her joyously, eager to lay the rash acts of his youth behind him, but just as eager to avoid the shame that his past might bring to his current life as mayor of the town of Casterbridge. Thus begins a complex and compelling tragedy of secrets, betrayals, and unexpected turns. In the hands of Dickens, this melodramatic story would have been a romp. Hardy has a sadder but also more intensely emotional bent; he takes his characters' feelings--both their loss and their desire--deeply seriously, and the result is as passionate as it is woeful. The Mayor of Casterbridge starts sluggishly, but becomes increasingly gripping over the course of seven episodes, as the excellent cast makes the characters vivid and sympathetic. Bates and Anna Massey, as a former love of Henchard's who seeks to renew their relationship, are particularly superb. Some critics view Henchard's fall from grace as the result of pride; but this production, written with nuance and care by Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective, Pennies from Heaven), makes clear his emotional clumsiness and how it sabotages his fumbling after happiness. --Bret Fetzer

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring: Alan Bates, Janet Maw, Jack Galloway, Anna Massey, Ronald Lacey, Anne Stallybrass.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 47, 48.

The Moonstone (1997) BBC

Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility) and Keeley Hawes (Karaoke) star in this sumptuous adaptation of Wilkie Collins' classic mystery, the first detective novel ever written. The Moonstone, a sacred Hindu diamond was stolen from the head of the Moon God, in its shrine by John Herncastle in 1799. The stone is said to be cursed if it is removed from the shrine. In 1846, Herncastle visits his ister to wish his niece, Rachel, a happy birthday. His sister refuses to see him, and he vows that he will always remember his niece's birthday- a vow which later takes on sinister undertones.

Two years later, just before Rachel's birthday, a man named Franklin Blake announces to Rachel that the Moonstone has been bequeathed to her by Herncastle. Blake gives her the jewel on her birthday and offers to mount the jewel for her, in order that she might wear it. Inevitably, the jewel is found missing the next morning and Rachel believes Blake stole it. Determined to prove his innocence, Blake leaves in order to pursue the real truth behind the theft.

A handsome production for BBC Television and WGBH in Boston, directed by Robert Bierman (Vampire's Kiss), The Moonstone is most entertaining whenever Sher is on screen, humming incessantly, prattling on about roses, and sharing scenes with such estimable supporting players as Patricia Hodge (Betrayal) and Peter Vaughan (The Remains of the Day). --Tom Keogh

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Greg Wise, Keeley Hawes, Terrence Hardiman.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 49.

The Pickwick Papers (1985) BBC

A twelve-part BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens first novel. The story follows Samuel Pickwick and three other members of The Pickwick Club as they travel throughout the English countryside by coach observing the phenomena of life and human nature, and recording their experiences for the other members of The Pickwick Club. Their memoirs of these experiences are the Pickwick Papers of the novel's title. During their travels Pickwick and Friends manage to land themselves in many humorous and sometimes hair-raising misadventures. The episodes are roughly thirty minutes' duration and are framed with a lively narration.- David Smith

Starring Nigel Stock, Alan Parnaby Clive Swift and Patrick Malahide, with narration spoken by Ray Brooks.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 44, 45.

Note: Pickwick Papers is set in southern England in the years of 1827 to 1831. Among other things this novel gave an enduring literary expression to the "coaching days" period of English life. As Dickens was writing his novel, that period was rapidly being destroyed by the new railroads. An air of nostalgia seems to hang about the coaches, coachmen, macadam roads, and wayside inns that fill the book. Dickens, in fact, played a large part in creating the romance of the coach through his treatment of it in this novel.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) BBC

Anne Bronte's frank and passionate story of a woman's desperate bid for independence from her brutal husband, in an age when marriage was a woman's only choice.

A mysterious young woman arrives at Wildfell Hall, an old mansion of Elizabethan era with a young son. She determines to lead an independent existence, but her new neighbours don't want to let her alone. Only one of them, a young farmer, Gilbert Markham, succeeded in revealing her secrets.

Produced by BBC and directed by Mike Barker.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves.

Note: The story begins in 1847 in the Victorian era, but flashes back to the period from 1821 to 1830 (Georgian era), before returning to 1847.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 11.

The Way We Live Now (2001) BBC

The Way We Live Now captures the turmoil as the old order is swept aside by the brash new forces of business and finance. Based on the novel by Anthony Trollope, this satire of Victorian society contains the trials and tribulations of young love, the pettiness of the upper class life, the raw energy and excitement of the most powerful city the world had ever seen, and the greed and corruption that lay just below its glittering surface.

First screened on BBC in 2001, The Way We Live Now will surprise those who know Anthony Trollope through the subtleties of his Barsetshire novels. This story of ambition centers around Augustus Melmotte, an Austrian Jewish financier who takes the London money markets and social scene by storm in his efforts to become an "English country gentleman." His rise and fall is followed with remorseless logic by Trollope, and David Yates's direction keeps this in focus against a wealth of subplots and character interaction.

The cast is a strong one, with David Suchet's Melmotte gripping in his recklessness, climaxing in the theatrical magnificence of his departure in disgrace from the House of Commons. Shirley Henderson is magnetic as his put-upon daughter Marie, courted by the cream-of-society bachelors for her dowry rather than her person. Cheryl Campbell gives a good account of the feckless Lady Carbury, writing vacuous novels to support her family, with Matthew MacFadyen relishing the part of her rakish son, Felix. Paloma Baeza is sympathetic as her daughter, Hetta, whose on-off relationship with entrepreneur Paul Montague, ably taken by Cillian Murphy, provides the main love interest. Douglas Hodge impresses as the loyal and sincere but insipid Roger Carbury.

In 1872 novelist Anthony Trollope returned to England from abroad and was appalled by the greed loose in the land. His scolding rebuke was his longest and arguably best novel, The Way We Live Now, now adapted by celebrated screenwriter Andrew Davies. This being Trollope, the story is peppered with a galaxy of other cads, aristocrats, suitors, bigwigs, blowhards and ne'er-do-wells. The series consists of four generous episodes, each lasting 75 minutes.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring David Suchet, Matthew Macfadyen and Cillian Murphy.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 30, 31.

Under the Greenwood Tree (2005) BBC

Nicholas Laughland's TV adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel. Set in a rustic English village in the mid 19th century, Under The Greenwood Tree tells the story of a poor young man who falls for a middle-class schoolteacher and attempts to win her over.

On Christmas Eve, the members of the Mellstock choir prepare themselves for the annual caroling. Mellowed by generous mugs of cider, the men and boys head out into the snow, clutching their fiddles. The first stop is the school, where they sing for Fancy Day, the new schoolmistress. At first there is no indication that she has heard them, but at last she appears, framed picture-like at a window. The choir moves on, only later discovering that Dick Dewy has remained behind. They find him leaning against the school, staring up dreamily at the now darkened window.

At church on the following morning, Fancy Day causes a stir of excitement. She is the primary attraction for three men: Dick, Farmer Shiner, and the new vicar, Mr. Maybold. In the months that follow, all three men set their cap at the attractive schoolmistress. Farmer Shiner offers her comfort and security and is favored by Fancy's father, while Mr. Maybold flatters her intelligence and offers her social status. Dick, a handsome laborer, offers nothing more than a true heart. Fancy is torn -- should her head or her heart rule her?

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Keeley Hawes, James Murray and Terry Mortimer.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVD 66

Vanity Fair (1998) BBC A&E

Vanity Fair is a BBC television drama serial adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Andrew Davies. Six episode mini-series.

For those who like leading ladies with spice and bite, director Marc Munden's 1998 adaptation of Vanity Fair is for them. It portrays Becky Sharp just as William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) wrote her -- as a cunning, unprincipled, manipulative social climber who is so beguiling that no man can resist her. Like a flame attracting moths, she lures men to the refulgence of her beauty and charm -- and then the intrigue begins. Natasha Little portrays Becky. She is so deliciously devious in the role that the viewer almost roots for her as she connives and double-crosses. But will she change? Is she really an Austen-esque heroine in disguise who will doff her nasty ways after undergoing childbirth and other life events? Fans of the novel, in which Thackeray satirizes the pretensions of 19th century England's middle and upper classes, already know the answer to that question. Andrew Davies, who wrote the script for the highly successful BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, also adapted Thackeray's novel for this BBC-A&E production. The film contains much of the same kind of clever repartee as Pride and Prejudice, and the characters are well-drawn and the actors well-cast. Nathaniel Parker -- with his good looks, mustache, and insouciant manner -- bears a strong resemblance to Rhett Butler in his portrayal of Captain Rawdon Crawley, a card-playing rogue who has the same kind of stormy relationship with Becky as Butler does with Scarlett O'Hara. Other actors serve mostly as caricatures representing typical English men and women of the day: Jeremy Swift as the self-satisfied Jos Sedley, Frances Grey as the cloyingly sweet Amelia Sedly, and Philip Glenister as the long-suffering admirer of Amelia, Colonel Dobbin, who is the only honest and upright character in Vanity Fair. Filmed in England, Wales, France, and Germany, the production features lavish sets and period costumes -- including redingotes, Regency evening gowns, and crisp military uniforms -- to accentuate the 19th century ambience. However, Murray Gold's musical score may be a bit too modern in its impudent sarcasm, at least for some viewers. - Mike Cummings

Starring Natasha Little, Frances Grey and Philip Glenister.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 4, 5.

Wives and Daughters (1999) BBC

Elizabeth Gaskell's enchanting tale of romance, scandal, and intrigue in a gossipy English town comes to Masterpiece Theatre in a lavish four-part production of Wives and Daughters, adapted by celebrated screenwriter Andrew Davies.

Davies, who wrote the scripts for such Masterpiece Theatre classics as A Rather English Marriage, Moll Flanders, the House of Cards trilogy, and Middlemarch, found Wives and Daughters to be perfect costume-drama material. It posed a rather interesting problem: Gaskell died just before completing the book. She was obviously aiming at a happy ending, and Davies has supplied the lost denouement with surprise and style.

"Wives and Daughters is about the ordinary mysteries of life," says producer Sue Birtwistle, previously responsible for the BBC's Pride and Prejudice and Masterpiece Theatre's King Lear. "[It's about] where love comes from, how it grows, how it can break our hearts, how it can bring happiness and fulfillment. It's about the mistakes we make and the secrets we have to keep."

Wives and Daughters is a BBC America/WGBH Boston co-production.

Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

Starring Francesca Annis, Justine Waddell and Bill Paterson, Keeley Hawes, Michael Gambon.

Note: Many people place Wives and Daughters in the Victorian era, but, it seems the story begins about five years earlier in the Georgian era. Writing in the 1860s, Gaskell chose to set the story in the 1830s, the time of her girlhood, making Molly her own contemporary: "Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters centres on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly's quiet life – loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford."

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 15, 16.

Wuthering Heights (1978) BBC

Ken Hutchison stars as the brooding and tormented lover Heathcliff in this 1978 BBC television adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel. Adopted as a boy by the kindly Mr Earnshaw (John Collin), Heathcliff comes to live with the family at their home, Wuthering Heights, in the Yorkshire moors. He soon falls in love with Earnshaw's headstrong daughter Cathy (Kay Adshead) in a doomed relationship that plunges them both into despair when Cathy agrees to marry her rich neighbour Edgar Linton (David Robb). Tortured by his love, the dark and sinister Heathcliff refuses to relinquish his emotional hold on Cathy, and does everything in his power to destroy the lives of her and her family.

Starring Ken Hutchison, John Collin, Brian Wilde, Pat Heywood, Kay Adshead.

Included in the BBC Classic Drama Collection as DVDs 21, 22.