Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 12 2020 01:00PM

Sanditon, the much-hyped TV adaptation of the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death, is probably not getting a second season, but the enthusiasm of its uber-fans, the #SanditonSisterhood, is the gift that keeps on giving.


Last month, as you’ll recall, the Sidney-and-Charlotte brigade commissioned a sand artist to create a huge mural of Sanditon’s young lovers on the beach near Bristol, where the currently canceled show was filmed. The fans hoped to bring IRL attention to their online campaign, which aims at persuading a broadcaster to finance more episodes. (More than 72,000 people have signed a Change.org petition deploring the series’ unhappy, cliffhanger ending.)


But here’s the thing about sand art: Much like the affections of TV audiences, it does not long endure. And before artist Simon Beck could finish his work, the tide rolled in and swept it all away – bonneted Charlotte, top-hat-wearing Sidney, and “Who Will #SaveSanditon?” caption.


Beck, however, is a man of his word, and so days later he returned to the beach to finish filling in the outlines of his abortive Sidney Parker. Admittedly, the figure bears only a slight resemblance to the dishy Theo James, who played Sidney in the series, but sand may not lend itself to photorealism.


By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 21 2020 01:00PM

We Janeites love our Jane Austen movies. Can’t get enough of ‘em! Want more! And more! Or so you’d conclude from recent news:


* Plans for a big-screen Persuasion, word of which first surfaced last month, seem to be proceeding nicely: The Australian actress Sarah Snook, recently nominated for an Emmy for the HBO business dramedy Succession, has reportedly been cast as Anne Elliot. There’s plenty of time for the project to fall apart – remember that big-screen Sanditon, starring Charlotte Rampling? – but in the meantime, we can entertain ourselves by casting our fantasy Wentworths.


* This year’s Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, was canceled because. . . well, you know. But a local production company with the delightful name of Bonnetland hopes to interest a broadcaster in a six-part mini-series set during the festival. Early next month, the team will film a ten-minute pilot in Bath, and they’re looking for Janeites with their own Regency costumes to feature as extras.


The storyline is vague – “two characters on their humorous journey throughout the day" – but the extras seem likely to have a good time even if the series isn’t picked up. Says a spokeswoman, "This is a great opportunity to be involved in a lighthearted and fun project for all those missing out on the festival this year." Which is all of us.


* The irrepressible #SanditonSisterhood are not giving up on their quest for a second season of the much-hyped-but-not-successful-enough TV series based on the novel Austen left unfinished at her death. A year after ITV launched the show by commissioning a giant billboard mural in the seaside town of Bournemouth, fans who have spent months protesting the broadcaster’s decision to leave Sanditon’s star-crossed lovers dangling for all eternity arranged a public art project of their own.


Last week, on the sands near Bristol, where the show was filmed, artist Simon Beck created a giant portrait of protagonists Charlotte Heywood and Sidney Parker, captioned “Who will #SaveSanditon?” Alas for the fans, who crowdfunded Beck’s fee, the answer so far seems to be “no one”: a feeler earlier this summer from Amazon Prime Video’s UK branch has so far come to nothing. But that’s not likely to deter a band of intrepid, and adaptation-hungry, Janeites.


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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