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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Sanditon, now with less sex

Sanditon, the PBS-ITV series based ever-so-loosely on the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death, has been an acquired taste from the start. (I never acquired it.) But I was puzzled by a recent piece about changes planned for the show’s second season, which premieres on PBS on March 20.

Sanditon, you will recall, was greatly hyped, poorly reviewed, and initially canceled after its UK airing, only to rise from the dead following the US broadcast and a year of campaigning by a passionate online fan base. In a recent Zoom press tour, people associated with the show responded to criticism that Sanditon included “more sex than Austen would have intended,” according to a report in Current, an online trade publication that covers public media.

Executive producer Susanne Simpson “acknowledged the complaints and said there will be less sex in coming seasons,” Current reported. “I think that speaks to a difference between the British audience and the American audience,” head writer Justin Young told the press tour. “I think in some ways Season 2 maybe feels more classically Jane Austen than Season 1.”

Let us set aside for now the questionable suggestion that American TV viewers are more puritanical about sex than their British counterparts. Let us also set aside the issue of whether the first season of Sanditon really contained all that much sex, at least of the on-screen variety.

Let us instead focus on the question of why you would tailor Season 2 of your risen-from-the-grave series to address the complaints of people who didn’t like it the first time. It's hard for me to imagine that those of us who found Sanditon melodramatic, implausible, and poorly written the first time round are going to reup once we are reassured that the actors will remain clothed.

But, then, it seems that fan opinion may have less to do with the resurrection of Sanditon than fans would like to believe: According to Simpson, discussions about reviving the show began before it ever aired in the US.


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