Lost in Austen
|Lost in Austen|
Lost in Austen intertitle
|Genre||Drama, fantasy, romance|
|Written by||Guy Andrews|
|Directed by||Dan Zeff|
|Music by||Christian Henson|
|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 network||ITV, STV, UTV|
|Original release||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 the 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; but when Elizabeth disappears, she brushes the incident off as a dream. Amanda explains to her mother that Jane Austen's novel has shown her that she can set higher standards for a husband for herself, and taught her to believe in true love. Elizabeth appears in Amanda's 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. Mr Bennet is hospitable, accepting Amanda as his daughter's good friend, while Elizabeth visits "the city".
Amanda tries to ensure that the novel progresses as it should, but when Mr Bingley visits Longbourn, he admires Amanda more than Jane. At the Meryton Assembly Hall, Amanda tries to reject Bingley's interest by telling him that she cannot dance with him, because Mr Darcy has already asked her to. Bingley calls Amanda's 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.
A furious Mrs Bennet warns Amanda not to interfere with her daughters' marriage prospects. Later, Amanda forces Jane to travel to the Bingleys' home in bad weather, in order to get the novel back on track. But when she learns that this may give Jane a fatal attack of grippe (influenza) Amanda follows her to try and save her.
While nursing a sick Jane with paracetamol at Netherfield Park, Amanda finally puts a stop to Bingley's advances on her. Claiming to be a lesbian, she is able to direct his amorous attentions back to Jane. Darcy, however, argues with Amanda about her bringing Jane to Netherfield Park, while Caroline Bingley takes a dislike to Amanda, and continually tries to embarrass her. She insists that Amanda play the piano for them, but upon her revelation that she cannot play, Amanda instead sings Petula Clark's song "Downtown", and receives great applause from Darcy and Bingley. When Caroline snidely tells Amanda that, while she will never get the riches she's looking for, she at least won't starve, Amanda, in retaliation, 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, but an army officer, Wickham, plays gallant rescuer. Amanda warns Wickham (who, in the novel, is set to run away with Lydia,) 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 Mrs Bennet. When he starts a proposal to Jane, Amanda intervenes, offering Elizabeth's best friend and his fiancee in the novel, Charlotte Lucas. Mr Collins, however, misunderstands, and proposes to Amanda. She accepts to save Jane.
Amanda sends Bingley and Jane on a walk to push them together. When Bingley consents to host a ball, Amanda hopes that events have returned to coincide with the novel, but at the ball, Darcy convinces Bingley not to marry Jane, telling him that her family, influenced by Amanda, are only after his money. Bingley gives Jane the cold shoulder, and she flees in tears.
A vengeful Wickham begins to discredit Amanda, spreading rumors that her vast income comes from her deceased father, a fishmonger. Mr Collins, on hearing this offence to high society, breaks off his engagement with Amanda, and she knees him in the balls.
Jane, believing that Bingley no longer loves her, accepts her mother's advice, and unhappily marries Mr Collins. A disgusted Mr Bennet angrily refuses to sleep in the same bed as his wife, believing that she has condemned Jane.
Amanda questions Bingley, who reveals that he does love Jane, but 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. Darcy retorts that Amanda repulses him, and walks out.
Mrs Bennet finally ejects Amanda from Longbourn for trying to meddle with her daughters' marriage prospects. A sympathetic Mr Bennet gives Amanda some money, and tells her to reconcile with Jane. Mr Collins explains to his miserable new wife that he has not yet asked to consummate their marriage because of religious abstinence.
Wickham offers to help Amanda, and teaches her how to properly act in high society. He buys her a dress, shows her how to use a fan to hide her true emotions, and invents fictional French nobles for her to name-drop. Amanda realizes that Wickham wants to set her up with Darcy, so that he can pursue Caroline Bingley, who is believed to be Darcy's ideal social match.
Wickham encourages Amanda to visit Jane, and, though at first reluctant, Jane gratefully accepts Amanda's apology and offer to renew their friendship. Mr Collins refuses to allow Amanda to dinner at Rosings, the home of his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but Amanda claims to have a message from Wickham's fictional nobles. Lady Catherine, not wanting to appear ignorant and unconnected, goes along with the ploy, pretending to know the nobles, and allowing Amanda to dine with them.
Lady Catherine is also the aunt of Mr Darcy, and Darcy, Bingley and Caroline are among her dinner guests. Darcy tries to put Amanda down, but she twistedly agrees with everything he says, wields her fan, and manages to fit in.
Meanwhile, Mrs Bennet argues with Mr Bennet, and decides to see Jane, taking Lydia with her so that she can see a happy marriage. Mr Bennet claims that if she finds a happy marriage at Rosings, he will walk the drawing room naked.
Lady Catherine mentions that she wishes the rest of the Bennet girls to marry Mr Collins's brothers, who are less "favoured" than himself. Despite their disagreements over dinner, Darcy begins to soften to Amanda when she returns a gold watch that a sad and drunken Bingley wagers at cards. Lady Catherine warns Amanda to stay away from Mr Darcy. Amanda insists that she does not want him, but Lady Catherine disagrees.
Agitated, Darcy comes to see Amanda at the parsonage. He asks her why she sought him out at Rosings, and Amanda denies this, pointing out that he has come to see her. A tormented Darcy, struggling to understand why he is drawn to Amanda, sweeps her up into his arms. A shocked Amanda asks him if he knows what he is doing, and he storms out. Jane witnesses their exchange. She states that Darcy is in love with Amanda, but Amanda insists that Elizabeth is the one for Darcy. Jane tries to convince her otherwise.
Later, Darcy invites Amanda to Pemberley. Overhearing the invitation, Mrs Bennet eagerly accepts as well, and Darcy politely includes Lydia and Jane. At a shooting party, Jane tearfully pleads with the sinking Bingley to fulfil his moral duty to marry and be happy for them both. Mrs Bennet witnesses this, and finally understands what her husband was talking about.
Amanda admits to herself that she loves Darcy, and 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, freeing them from the influence of Mr Collins.
Bingley then seeks out Wickham as a drinking companion, and Wickham eventually returns the unconscious Bingley to Pemberley. At Wickham's arrival, Darcy confines his young sister Georgiana, who has a history with Wickham, to her room. However, Georgiana 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 honor, being sure that Darcy would throw her out if he knew the truth. Amanda realizes that Wickham is a good person, and that Austen's account of him was one-sided.
Drunk and despairing, Bingley punches Darcy for leading him away from Jane. Caroline, seeing her opportunity, walks up to Darcy, and makes coded insinuations about Amanda.
When Amanda finally confesses her love to Darcy, she inadvertently mentions her old boyfriend back in the present, confirming what Caroline had implied to Darcy - Amanda is not a virgin. Darcy, although still obviously in love, regrets that he cannot marry her because of his station in society.
A distraught Amanda furiously rips up her copy of Pride and Prejudice, and throws it out of a window. While she packs to leave, however, Caroline enters her room, and Amanda is stunned when Caroline makes advances, having heard from her brother that Amanda is a lesbian, like her. Caroline in fact only wishes to marry Darcy to fulfill social expectations.
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. Amanda angrily tells him that his view of everything is wrong, that he has misjudged everyone, and announces her immediate departure.
Darcy announces his expected engagement to Caroline, and Mrs Bennet receives a note telling of Lydia's elopement with, not Wickham, but Bingley. Mrs Bennet blames Amanda for this, while Amanda blames Darcy, and says that he and Caroline deserve each other.
Amanda travels with Mr and Mrs Bennet in pursuit of Lydia and 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.
Amanda fears for Mr Bennet's life. Needing Elizabeth, she breaks through a door, and suddenly finds herself back in modern London. Her boyfriend Michael drives her to see Elizabeth, now employed as a nanny.
On a busy street, Amanda spots an astonished Darcy in the crowd. 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 Elizabeth can return to her time and marry Darcy.
Mr Bennet returns home to make a full recovery, thanks to Elizabeth's nursing. Lady Catherine, knowing Amanda's hold over Darcy, arrives at Longbourn and bargains for Amanda's departure by promising to have Jane's marriage to Mr Collins annulled on the grounds of non-consummation. Amanda agrees.
Caroline is upset when she learns that her engagement to Darcy is over, but appears intrigued when Wickham shows his interest in her. Jane and Bingley plan to marry and leave for America, and Amanda persuades Elizabeth to learn to love Darcy. Darcy tells Amanda that he will mind his duty and marry Elizabeth.
However, when Amanda opens the door to return home, she finds a note that Darcy has left for her: "Not one heartbeat do I forget."
Amanda decides to stay in the world of Pride and Prejudice, and rushes to Pemberley to be with Darcy. Elizabeth gets her father's blessing to return to Hammersmith.
- 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.
- Genevieve Gaunt as Georgiana Darcy
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 song Miss Bingley is playing and singing on the piano in episode 3 at Rosings is written by Mozart. Song title: Lied der Freiheit K506. time 11:47.
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."
"...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. Two years after Ephron's passing, Carrie Brownstein was tapped to finish the rest of the script.
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 as was a ringtone using the music from the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
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