Lost in Austen
|Lost in Austen|
Lost in Austen intertitle
|Written by||Guy Andrews|
|Directed by||Dan Zeff|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||4|
|Executive producer(s)||Guy Andrews
|Running time||45 mins.|
|Production company(s)||Mammoth Screen Ltd|
|Original channel||ITV, STV, UTV|
|Original run||3 September 2008– 24 September 2008|
Lost in Austen is a four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network, written by Guy Andrews as a fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Amanda, a woman from modern London, enters plot of the novel through a portal in her bathroom, to join the Bennet family and affect events disastrously.
Amanda Price, a keen Jane Austen fan from present-day Hammersmith who has just rejected an unromantic marriage proposal from her boozy, unfaithful boyfriend, discovers Elizabeth Bennet, a character from Pride and Prejudice, in a nightgown in her bathroom. Amanda explains to her mother that Jane Austen's novel has shown her that she can set higher standards for a husband for herself. Elizabeth appears in her bathroom again, this time dressed for travel.
Amanda steps through the secret doorway in the wall that Elizabeth has shown her and finds herself at Longbourn, the house of the Bennet family, near the beginning of the novel. Amanda is trapped in this world while Elizabeth is in 21st-century London, where she becomes a nanny. Mr Bennet is hospitable, accepting Jane as his daughter's good friend while Elizabeth visits "the city".
Amanda tries to ensure that the novel progresses as it should, but she keeps messing it up. When Mr Bingley visits Longbourn he admires Amanda more than Jane. At the Meryton Assembly Hall she tries to reject Mr Bingley's interest. She tells him that she cannot dance with him because Mr Darcy has already asked her. Mr Bingley calls her bluff, but Darcy backs her up and dances with her, saying that he is trying to save Bingley from embarrassment. Amanda gets drunk and kisses Bingley, immediately regretting it.
Mrs Bennet is furious and warns Amanda not to interfere with her daughters' marriage prospects. Later Amanda forces Jane to travel to the Bingleys' home in bad weather to get the novel back on track. When she learns that this may give Jane a fatal attack of grippe (influenza) Amanda follows her to save her.
While nursing Jane with Paracetamol at Netherfield Park, Amanda attempts to stop Bingley's advances. Claiming to be a lesbian, she directs his amorous attention back to Jane. Darcy argues with Amanda that Mr Bingley did not invite Jane to Netherfield Park. Caroline Bingley continually tries to embarrass Amanda. In retaliation Amanda boasts of her income of 27,000 pounds a year, which is enormous by Georgian standards.
As the Bennet ladies return to Longbourn, their carriage breaks down. An army officer, Wickham, plays gallant rescuer, ordering his fellow soldiers to the roof of their carriage, and delivers his charges home. Amanda warns him that she knows what he is up to and is watching him.
Repulsive cousin Mr Collins, the entailed heir to Longbourn, visits to gain a wife, much to the excitement of his hostess. When he starts a proposal to Jane Amanda intervenes, offering Elizabeth's best friend and his fiancee in the book, Charlotte Lucas. He misunderstands and proposes to Amanda. She accepts to save Jane.
Amanda sends Bingley and Jane on a walk to push them together. Bingley does consent to give a ball, so Amanda hopes that events have returned to coincide with the book, but at the ball Darcy convinces Bingley not to marry Jane, because her family, influenced by Amanda, only want his money. Bingley gives Jane the cold shoulder. She flees in tears.
Wickham discredits Amanda, spreading rumors that her income comes from her deceased father, a fishmongery. Collins, on hearing this offence to high society, breaks off the engagement. Amanda knees Collins in the balls. Darcy tosses her out.
Jane, believing that Bingley no longer loves her, accepts her mother's advice to marry Collins, but as the newlyweds drive from the church the expressions on Jane's and Bingley's faces express deep disappointment. Her father angrily moves his sleeping quarters into his library, disconcerting his wife.
Amanda questions Bingley, who reveals that Darcy's stronger will prevailed over his own. Amanda accuses Darcy of crushing his friend's chance for happiness. She now decides that he does not deserve Elizabeth. He is so relentlessly unpleasant that she cannot bear to look at him. Darcy retorts that she repulses him and walks out.
Mrs Bennet ejects Amanda from Longbourn for interfering with her daughters' marriage prospects. Mr Bennet gives Amanda money and tells her to reconcile with Jane. Mr Collins explains to Jane that he has not asked to consummate the marriage because of religious abstinence. Bingley admits to Darcy that he still loves Jane.
Wickham consents to help Amanda and prepares her for society. He buys her a dress, shows her how to use a fan to hide her true feelings, and invents fictional French nobles, later accepted by Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Amanda realizes that Wickham wants to set her up with Darcy. Caroline Bingley, who society expects to marry Darcy, would be free for Wickham to pursue.
Amanda proposes to write a letter to Jane. Wickham encourages her to visit at once. Jane, at first reluctant, gratefully accepts Amanda's apology and offer to renew their friendship. Collins at first refuses to allow Amanda to dinner at Rosings, the home of his patroness Lady Catherine, but Amanda claims to have a message from Wickham's fictional nobles. Even Lady Catherine goes along with the ploy, asking about the health of the imaginary couple.
Lady Catherine is also Darcy's aunt, and Darcy, Bingley and Caroline are among her dinner guests. Darcy tries to put Amanda down, but she agrees with everything he says, wields her fan and fits in.
Lady Catherine wishes the Bennet girls to marry Collins's brothers, who are less "favoured" than himself. Amanda realizes that Caroline wants Darcy and gets angry. Although they disagree over dinner, Darcy softens when Amanda returns a gold watch that a drunken Bingley wagers at cards. Lady Catherine warns Amanda that she cannot have Mr Darcy. Amanda insists that she does not want him. Lady Catherine disagrees.
Agitated, Darcy comes to see Amanda at the parsonage. He asks why she sought him at Rosings, knowing of his disdain. She denies this and points out that he came to see her. He is tormented. He cannot understand why he is drawn to her. He cannot reconcile his passion with his repulsion. He sweeps her into his arms. She asks if he is quite sure that this is what he means to do. He storms out.
Jane witnesses their exchange. She states that Darcy is in love with Amanda. Amanda disagrees. She still believes that Elizabeth is the one for Darcy. Jane tries to convince her otherwise. Meanwhile Mrs Bennet argues with Mr Bennet, and decides to see Jane, taking Lydia.
Darcy invites Amanda to Pemberley. Overhearing the invitation, Mrs Bennet accepts as well, so he includes Lydia and Jane. Surrounded by the Bennets and the Collinses, Amanda and Darcy's mutual hostility wanes.
Darcy admits his love for Amanda, but Amanda still believes that he is meant for Elizabeth. When he finally convinces her Amanda asks Darcy to get in the water, wanting him to recreate a scene in the TV miniseries of Pride and Prejudice (1995). She finally admits to herself that she loves him. She decides to "understudy" while Elizabeth is away. She tells a weeping Mrs Bennet that she will marry Darcy in order to buy Longbourn for them.
Jane tearfully pleads with Bingley to fulfil his moral duty to marry and be happy for them both. Drunk and despairing, he punches Darcy in the face. Bingley then seeks out Wickham as a more congenial drinking companion.
Wickham returns the unconscious Bingley to Pemberley. At Wickham's arrival Darcy confines his young sister Georgiana to her room. She confesses to Amanda that Wickham did not ravish her, as she reported to her brother. She was angry when Wickham rejected her advances and called her a child. Wickham maintains the falsehood to spare Georgiana's honour, being sure that Darcy would throw her out if he knew the truth. Amanda realizes that Wickham is a good person and that Jane Austen was one-sided.
Amanda reveals to Darcy that she has already lost her virginity. Darcy, although still obviously in love, regrets that he cannot marry her because of his station in society. Her revelation has cost both of them "everything".
Amanda furiously rips pages from her copy of Pride and Prejudice and throws them out of a window. While she packs to leave Caroline makes advances, having heard from her brother that Amanda is a lesbian. Caroline plans to marry Darcy to fulfil social expectations, but the poetry of Sappho describes her true inclination. Amanda sends her away.
Amanda finds Darcy in the garden reading the tattered remains of her copy of the novel. He assumes that she is its author, and expresses his shock that she has exposed private matters and has not even concealed the real names of the characters. She responds that his view of everyone is wrong, that he has misjudged everyone, and announces her immediate departure.
A devastated Amanda decides to put on a happy face, although she feels like dying. When Darcy announces his engagement to Caroline Mrs Bennet receives a note telling of Lydia's elopement with Mr Bingley. Mrs Bennet blames Amanda. Amanda tells Darcy of the elopement and blames him for it. They argue again. She says that he and Caroline deserve each other.
Amanda travels with Mr and Mrs Bennet to Hammersmith in pursuit of Lyida and Mr Bingley, and, with help from Wickham, they find them hiding at an inn. Darcy arrives too. Lydia and Bingley insist that nothing has happened between them, but an enraged Mr Bennet attacks Bingley with a sword. In self-defence Bingley inflicts a serious head injury on the older man. Wickham helps to save Mr Bennet and promises Amanda that he is the only one who will be loyal to her.
Amanda fears for Mr Bennet's life. Needing Elizabeth, she breaks through a door and finds herself back into modern London. Her boyfriend Michael drives her to see Elizabeth, now a nanny.
On a busy street Amanda spots Darcy. He explains that he has followed her for love and will follow her anywhere. Amanda still wants him to meet Elizabeth, but Elizabeth has thoroughly embraced modern life and is shocked to meet Darcy, having read the novel.
Amanda hurries them back to her bathroom portal for their return to Longbourn, but the door will not open for Elizabeth, only for Amanda. Although Michael threatens to leave Amanda if she goes through the door, she goes anyway so that Darcy can marry Elizabeth.
Mr Bennet returns home to make a full recovery. Darcy regards modern London as a dream. Lady Catherine arrives at Longbourn and bargains for Amanda's departure by promising to have Jane's marriage annulled on the grounds of non-consummation. Amanda agrees.
Captain Wickham turns his attention to Caroline. Jane and Bingley plan to marry and leave for America. Amanda persuades Elizabeth to learn to love Darcy. Darcy tells Amanda that he will mind his duty and marry Elizabeth.
When Amanda opens the door to return home she finds a note that Darcy has slipped under the door, reading: "Not one heartbeat do I forget." Amanda decides to stay in the world of Pride and Prejudice. She rushes to Pemberley. Elizabeth gets her father's blessing to return to Hammersmith (whether in the early 19th century or the early 21st is left ambiguous). Darcy reveals his playful side when he and Amanda are reunited at Pemberley.
- Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price
- Elliot Cowan as Fitzwilliam Darcy
- Tom Mison as Mr Bingley
- Alex Kingston as Mrs. Bennet
- Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Claude Bennet
- Morven Christie as Jane Bennet
- Tom Riley as George Wickham
- Perdita Weeks as Lydia Bennet
- Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth Bennet
- Christina Cole as Caroline Bingley
- Florence Hoath as Catherine "Kitty" Bennet
- Lindsay Duncan as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
- Guy Henry as Mr. Collins
- Michelle Duncan as Charlotte Lucas
- Ruby Bentall as Mary Bennet
- Paul Hine as Cymbal Collins
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Pirhana, Amanda's friend.
- Daniel Percival as Michael Dolan, Amanda's boyfriend.
Amanda Price's workplace was filmed in Wakefield at the disused Yorkshire Bank building on Westgate. The Beluga Lounge on Market Street, also in Wakefield, was the set of a London wine bar. Several areas inside and outside Cannon Hall at Cannon Hall Museum, near Barnsley, feature in the production, including the oak-panelled ballroom. Leeds-based Screen Yorkshire told production company Mammoth Screen of the potential of some landscapes in the Wetherby district as the setting for Lost in Austen. Filming took place at locations including Bramham Park, parts of York, and Leeds City Markets. Harewood House, near to Leeds, was the setting for Pemberley.
Thirty-one-year-old actor Elliot Cowan (Mr Darcy) got the part when he was playing Henry V. Because, in his words, the show "has a similar sort of iconography within the theatre canon", he was not worried. Christina Cole and lead actress Jemima Rooper previously starred together in the Sky One supernatural series Hex, whilst Rooper and Mison appeared together shortly afterwards, again on ITV, in the Agatha Christie's Poirot adaptation of Third Girl (first broadcast 28 September 2008).
Alex Kingston (Mrs Bennet) found a sadness in her character and played her as "a woman unhappy in her marital situation. Her husband is, in essence, absent in the marriage and in the family. She tries to keep everything together without the emotional tools. It's this that makes her twittery. I think people can be driven slowly to becoming those people by the unfortunate situations that they're in. [...] Mr Bennet is absolutely culpable for his wife's twittering. She's overcompensating for her husband's absence."
The DVD was released in the UK on 28 September 2008 and in the United States on 28 April 2009. It contains two discs with the four episodes plus a "Making of" documentary.
Lost in Austen won critical praise but struggled in the ratings against BBC One's hit series Who Do You Think You Are?. Consolidated ratings for the first episode averaged 4,185,000 individuals and a 17.6% share. The consolidated ratings for episode two averaged 3,489,000 individuals and a 14.8% share. The third episode's consolidated figures were 3,256,000 and a 13.2% share.
According to overnight figures, Lost In Austen ended its run with 3.06m and 13.6% share. While the show could not match the slot average for the year of 3.8m (16.1%), it gave a significant boost to the commercial network's upmarket profile. Over the series, 46% of the show's audience came from the ABC1 demographic, an increase of 22.7% on the channel's performance that year of 37.5%.
Lost in Austen was well received by the press throughout its run. Lost in Austen was the subject of various blogs, including a series by Sarah Dempster writing online in guardian.co.uk.
Reviewing the first episode of the four-parter, a Times writer described Lost in Austen as:
"...a funny, clever breeze...It is a culture-clashing, time-clashing Walnut Whip of frothy nonsense with the intriguing proposition that Amanda may be able to change the outcome of her fictional touchstone."
James Walton of The Daily Telegraph noted that:
"...this is not a sentence that you often hear – but it’s been a good week for drama on ITV1... last night brought us the first episode of Lost in Austen. Of course, as many people have already spotted from its shameless blending of Pride and Prejudice with Life on Mars, the series does come with a distinct whiff of commercial calculation. Yet, so far at least, this only goes to show that commercial calculation can sometimes work rather well. The result can’t be called profound. Nonetheless, it does triumphantly achieve its main aim of being enormously good-natured fun."
The Guardian's reviewer wrote:
"...so perfectly drawn is the world that begins to unfurl - and so sincere and endearing is Guy Andrews' script - that suspension of disbelief becomes part of the fun. It's a fantasy. A fairy tale... So, what's it all about? It's about self-sacrifice, basically, and the restorative wonder of both fantasy and classic literature. It's You Can Heal Your Bustle; Feel The Bonnet and Wear It Anyway. Do you need a working knowledge of the novel to enjoy it? No. I knew absolutely bugger all about any of it bar the basics - Darcy, wet nightshirt, um - but soon found myself immersed in the Bennets' world, buoyed along by a script that positively frolics in the glorious fussiness of Georgian mores... I loved it."
Hermione Eyre in The Independent on Sunday wrote:
"...somewhere in his youth or childhood, Michael Grade must have done something good. Lost In Austen is everything ITV needs it to be: entirely delightful nonsense. What sounded on paper like a cynical hybrid (bonnets and speed dating! This will tick every woman's box!) has arrived on our screens pert, warm and funny. Like Billie Piper, Jemima Rooper is an entirely contemporary actress, effortlessly likeable and believable. Is it the hair? Is it the vowels? There's a sally like her in every shop on every street. She's every bint. A perfect time-travel companion. The faux-Austen dialogue trips off the cast's tongues ("Mr Darcy regards all forms of sudden locomotion as a mark of ill breeding" came out in seconds flat) and the daft, arch tone defibrillates the half-dead genre of period drama... This a sweet and foamy guilty pleasure, the advocaat on the TV cocktail list."
"Lost in Austen (ITV1) continues, fruity and frothy like a jam omelette. This is the fantasy of a very modern girl, Amanda, lost in Pride and Prejudice. Her salary, £27,000 a year, caused some flutters, kicking Mr Darcy's pittance into touch. Mr Collins arrived, looking disturbingly like Disraeli, and Amanda noticed: "He squeezes himself through his trouser pocket. And Then He Sniffs His Fingers!" That's where a top hat comes in handy. Horrifyingly, in spite or because of Amanda's meddling, Mr Collins married Jane last night. Amazingly good for ITV. Surely some mistake here?".
Under the headline "creative revival is not enough to reverse ITV's historic low", Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of the guardian.co.uk website wrote on 15 September 2008 that:
"...there are two strange things about Lost in Austen. All right, three if we include the premise. The first is that it's an ITV drama series that is getting almost universally good press and word of mouth. This hasn't happened for a while. Second, it's week two of a high-concept contemporary drama and there's no backlash. It's almost enough to start talk of a creative revival at ITV: flawed, but ambitious; a big ask, but answered with verve; polarising and a bit controversial. It is, in short, the sort of thing we've come to expect of BBC1." 
Reviewing episode three, Tim Teeman in The Times wrote:
"Guy Andrews, the writer of Lost in Austen, is having so much fun filleting and perverting Pride and Prejudice — “frosty knickers” Caroline Bingley, a lesbian! — you may be becoming vexed as to how the mess that present-day Amanda is wreaking within Austen’s novel will be cleared up. This witty and moving drama’s major failing is we don’t know what Elizabeth Bennet is getting up to in modern-day Hammersmith. But it was fun to have Amanda ask Mr Darcy to emerge from the water so that she could indulge a fantasy she had only read on the page. “I’m having a weird, postmodern moment,” she noted. So were we: it felt good."
Reviewing the final episode Tim Teeman in The Times continued his praise, giving the show five stars and writing:
"Guy Andrews (scriptwriter) and Dan Zeff (director) followed the relationships that Andrews had set askew through to their conclusion... This was wonderfully funny, sad and stirring: the music had me welling up... How clever to turn the time travel question to a radically conclusive purpose...I had another chocolate and marvelled at the sharp yet frothy, subversive-yet-utterly-respectful-of-Austen brilliance of it all. Those performances and the music zinged. It all zinged. Oh Mr Bennet, might we see you again perhaps in a longer-formatted series, or might that be a recipe for disaster? Was this a treat best served with brevity? Did anyone else check the cupboard in their bathroom afterwards . . . just in case?"
On 11 February 2009, The Guardian newspaper reported that a movie version of the series was under development. Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes is attached as an executive producer. Nora Ephron was working on the project at the time of her death in 2012. The status of the project is unknown at this time.
The four parts of the miniseries were put together into a movie and released on DVD. The North American version differs in that the scene with Amanda Price singing "Downtown" was eliminated.
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