Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 29 2020 01:00PM

The past six months have been no walk on the beach for passionate fans of the TV adaptation of Sanditon, the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death.


As you’ll recall, the eight-part ITV-PBS series debuted in the UK last year amid much hype, but by the time it arrived on American screens in January, its death warrant had already been signed: The critical reception was lukewarm, the audiences were small, and a projected second season had been iced, even though the first season ended on an unresolved, discordant note that dismayed many viewers.


But earlier this month, a glimmer of light shown through the darkness for the intrepid band of fans known as #SanditonSisterhood, who have spent months calling on PBS, ITV, and just about anyone else with a production budget to finance that second season.


“#SaveSanditon Squad, we hear you and we’re doing what we can,” the UK branch of Amazon Prime Video tweeted on June 17. “Please could you retweet this to let us know how many of you there are so we can make a case for a new season?” For good measure, the tweet included a GIF of Sanditon’s hero Sidney Parker, played by the dishy Theo James.


Not surprisingly, Amazon’s tweet made the day, if not the entire coronavirus-blighted spring, for Sanditon’s obsessed fandom. “Honestly, so many of us have been down in the dumps for a long time, lack of sanditon renewal, lockdown etc.,” one person tweeted in reply. “this has given us hope!!! thank you!”


Amazon's tweet has drawn twelve and a half thousand retweets. Is that enough for case-making? We'll have to wait and see. It’s a cliffhanger worthy of . . . well, Season 1 of Sanditon.


By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 6 2020 01:00PM

I was not enthusiastic about Sanditon, the ITV/PBS series based on the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death.


Although the show, which aired in Britain last year and in the US this winter, was created by Andrew Davies, the legendary screenwriter who brought us the iconic Colin Firth-Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice, I found the storytelling slack, the characters generally unconvincing, and the dialogue devoid of humor and wit.


And I wasn’t alone: the series got decidedly mixed reviews from critics, drew underwhelming audience numbers, and has officially been canceled after a single season, despite a cliffhanger not-happily-ever-after ending that was clearly intended to set up a sequel.


The one thing Sanditon has going for it, it seems, is a passionate fan base -- maybe not a big one, but an organized and committed one.


On Twitter, they congregate under the hashtags #SanditonSisterhood (yes, we’re talking mostly female fans here), #SaveSanditon, and #SanditonSeason2. They coordinate their tweeting schedules and themes, via the SanditonSisterhood account (977 followers). They have a private Facebook group with nearly nine thousand members and a pineapple as its symbol, in reference to a spiny fruit that played an important role in a (wholly implausible, but never mind) scene in Episode 2. They have promoted a Change.org petition calling for a second season (“The finale of Sanditon. . . was unfair, unjust, and unsatisfying”) that has been signed by almost 50,000 people.


These women are serious. And if they’re anything like the rest of us, they have a lot more tweeting time on their hands these days.


Still, I fear the odds are low that the Sanditon Sisterhood will achieve its objective. Period drama is expensive, and ITV is a commercial network: It needs to offer advertisers juicy viewer numbers before it can afford all those Regency ballgowns and updos. PBS, though nominally non-profit, has its own advertisers-in-all-but-name to keep afloat – and one of them is a cruise line. Need I say more?


But I wish the Sisterhood well, even though I could live happily without another eight episodes of Sanditon. Far be it from a Janeite to criticize minority tastes.


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