Fanny Hill (TV serial)

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Fanny Hill
Genre Costume drama
Based on Fanny Hill 
by John Cleland
Screenplay by Andrew Davies
Directed by James Hawes
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Editor(s) Sue Wyatt
Cinematography James Aspinall
Running time 106 minutes
Production company(s) BBC
Sally Head Productions
Original network BBC Four
Original release 22 October 2007 (2007-10-22) – 29 October 2007 (2007-10-29)

Fanny Hill is a BBC adaptation of John Cleland's controversial novel, Fanny Hill, written by Andrew Davies and directed by James Hawes. This is the first television adaptation of the novel. Fanny Hill was broadcast in October 2007 on BBC Four, in two episodes. Fanny Hill tells the story of a young country girl (Rebecca Night) who is lured into prostitution in 18th century London.


On 30 December 2005, Hannah Jones from the Western Mail reported that Andrew Davies would start writing a television adaptation of John Cleland's 18th century novel Fanny Hill the following year.[1] Davies called the project "a labour of love", but thought the novel was entertaining and perfect for his style of adaptation, as it contains "some very racy bits".[1] In May 2006, Ben Dowell from The Guardian stated that Fanny Hill had been commissioned by BBC Fiction Controller Jane Tranter, and it would be produced by Sally Head through her own production company.[2] Davies admitted to having doubts as to whether a television adaptation would ever be commissioned.[3] He expressed his delight at introducing a new audience to the novel, while executive producer Eleanor Moran commented "Andrew's adaptation brings out the joie de vivre of the novel, and is full of his trademark good humour and naughty wit."[3]

Fanny Hill was directed by James Hawes, who previously directed Davies's The Chatterley Affair.[4] Hawes shot between five and eight minutes of screentime in a day, which was double the norm. He said it was a challenging shoot because of the limited budget.[5] Hawes explained that the budget was half what it would have been if the show aired on BBC One, forcing the crew to think outside of the box.[5] Filming lasted for four weeks.[5]

While Fanny Hill had been adapted for several films, the miniseries marked the first time the novel had been adapted for television.[1][6] Fanny Hill aired as part of BBC Four's 18th century season and was accompanied by two documentaries, including The Curse of Success which told the story of Cleland and how he believed Fanny Hill ruined his reputation.[7]

70 actresses auditioned for the role of Fanny, this was cut down to eight and then two.[5] Upon learning she had an audition for Fanny Hill, Night went and purchased the book.[5] She was in the first group of actresses that were seen for the part.[5] Producer Nigel Marchant said Night stood out and called her a natural in the part.[5] Actor Alex Robertson was already in mind for the part of Charles, but his casting was not confirmed until they had cast Night as Fanny.[5] A couple of male actors read with Night and Robertson said that he had to go through two auditions.[5] Producers noted that he had the right chemistry with Night.[5]



The first episode of Fanny Hill gave BBC Four its biggest ever audience when it was watched by 1.1 million viewers. It had a 5.3 per cent audience share, outperforming other digital competitors.[8] The second episode also had an audience of 1.1 million, with a 5.2 per cent share.[9]

The Guardian's Nancy Banks-Smith gave the serial a positive review, claiming that Fanny Hill "was unexpectedly fresh and charming".[10] Banks-Smith asserted that viewers would enjoy it, adding "And, if you don't, it's only two episodes long, so you won't dislike it for long."[10] Matt Warman from The Daily Telegraph was disappointed that Fanny was "not as conspicuously erudite as Cleland's novel", but praised Davies for giving her "real emotional depth".[11] Hermione Eyre, writing for The Independent, thought the miniseries "was more authentic than any period drama" she had seen on television that year and she called it "good-humoured".[12] Eyre added that her only problem with Davies's adaptation was a lack of little details found in the novel.[12]

Rachel Cooke from the New Statesman questioned whether Davies was "spread too thinly", as she was disappointed in the adaptation. She stated "All the sex was there, but Fanny (Rebecca Night) herself did not get to describe it, which meant that the joy of the book – it is her unrepentant lasciviousness that distinguishes her from, say, Moll Flanders – was lost."[13]

For her work on the show, Lucinda Wright earned a nomination for Best Costume Design at the 2008 British Academy Television Craft Awards.[14]


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Hannah (30 December 2005). "Welsh writer to give Fanny Hill fresh exposure". Western Mail. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Dowell, Ben (8 May 2006). "Davies turns to raunchy 18th century classic". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "BBC Four gets turned on to Andrew Davies' steamy adaptation of Fanny Hill". BBC Press Office. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Fanny Hill – the ultimate kiss and tell story". BBC Press Office. 1 October 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Head, Sally; Hawes, James; Davies, Andrew; Night, Rebecca; Robertson, Alex; Marchant, Nigel; Aspinall, James; Roger, David; Wright, Lucinda (2007). The Making Of (DVD). FremantleMedia. 
  6. ^ "BBC Four Autumn 2007". BBC Press Office. 25 September 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Dowell, Ben (25 September 2007). "BBC4 season to back Fanny Hill". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  8. ^ West, Dave (23 October 2007). "'Fanny Hill' is most-watched BBC4 show". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  9. ^ West, Dave (30 October 2007). "'Doc Martin' dominates Monday for ITV1". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Banks-Smith, Nancy (23 October 2007). "Last night's TV: Fanny Hill". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Warman, Matt (23 October 2007). "Matt Warman reviews Fanny Hill (BBC4)". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Eyre, Hermione (28 October 2007). "Review: Andrew Davies has changed the habit of a lifetime and cut back on the sex scenes". The Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Cooke, Rachel (25 October 2007). "The really wild show". New Statesman. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Television Craft Awards Winners in 2008". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 

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