Series / Sense and Sensibility

The BBC has adapted Sense and Sensibility as a television miniseries three times in 1971, 1981 and 2008.

1971 Miniseries

A four part miniseries broadcast in January 1971. It starred Joanna David as Elinor Dashwood and Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood. It was never broadcast in the United States, but has since been released on DVD.

This miniseries provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Youngest Dashwood sister Margaret is not present in this adaptation.
  • Call Back: After Willoughby leaves, there is a scene of Marianne sitting out in the garden with Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor standing at the door looking out at her and discussing how she is starting to recover from the disappointment. After the news of Edward's supposed marriage, there is a similar scene with Elinor sitting out in the garden while Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne stand at the door discussing how time will heal the wound of her disappointment.
  • Cry into Chest: Marianne and Elinor both get one. Marianne cries into Elinor's shoulder after she receives Willoughby's letter explaining his engagement. Elinor briefly cries on Colonel Brandon's shoulder with relief after Marianne begins to heal from her illness.
  • Demoted to Extra: Though he isn't a huge character in the book, Mr. Palmer is only briefly featured in one scene - the ball where the Palmers are first introduced - and is never seen again. Therefore, we get none of the character development from the novel when the Dashwoods become better acquainted him during their stay at Cleveland.
  • Large Ham: The majority of the cast members are guilty of this to varying degrees. Ciaran Madden (Marianne) and Michael Aldridge (Sir John Middleton) milked it more than anyone. However, given their characters, it isn't too shocking.
  • Playing Gertrude: Patricia Routledge (Mrs. Jennings) was 41 during filming, but certainly doesn't look it. Since both of Mrs. Jennings' daughters are grown up with children, this is a little too young for the character. It doesn't help that the two actresses playing her daughters look old enough to be her sisters...
  • Shout-Out: During the final scene, Colonel Brandon brings Marianne some books. One of them is The Mysteries of Udolpho, best known for its role in another Jane Austen novel.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: Especially obvious in this version, since a couple scenes involve going from inside Barton Cottage to the flower garden outside.

1981 Miniseries

A seven part miniseries first broadcast in February 1981. It starred Irene Richard as Elinor Dashwood and Tracy Childs as Marianne Dashwood.

This miniseries provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: This adaptation does a good job of setting up Elinor and Edward's love in a believable way. There are several scenes in the first episode with the two of them discussing art, drawing and various other subjects.
  • Adapted Out: Margaret Dashwood is not present in this adaptation either.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Eleanor and Marianne dress this way, mirroring their Red Oni, Blue Oni tendencies. If not in white or cream, Eleanor is in some shade of blue and Marianne in pink. A symbolic color swap occurs for Marianne when she returns home after her illness. She is seen receiving some blue fabric and in her last scenes wears a blue pelisse over a blue-patterned dress to indicate her changed demeanor.
  • Ill Girl: When Marianne gets sick... she REALLY looks like death warmed over.

2008 Miniseries

A three part miniseries first broadcast on the BBC in January 2007. It was later broadcast in two parts on Masterpiece in the United States. It stars Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne. Andrew Davies (of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation) wrote the screenplay.

This miniseries provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The 2008 miniseries draws heavily from the 1995 film, and with an extra hour of screentime is able to expand on what even the film couldn't.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Edward showing up on horseback, making no fuss over his arrival, and offering to help Elinor beat carpets.
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted with Elinor, who has red hair but is the more sensible of the two sisters.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The series opens with what amounts to a softcore sex scene between a young couple, faces unseen, who turn out to be Willoughby and Eliza. The attraction between all the lead couples is played up as well.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Edward gets a scene chopping wood in the rain. Word of God is that this was Andrew Davies' homage to the memetic scene from his version of Pride and Prejudice where Mr Darcy goes for a swim, but it seems not to have the same effect on viewers, nor on Elinor.
  • Sword Fight: The opening of part three features a duel between Colonel Brandon and Willoughby, presumably over Willoughby's conduct involving Eliza, intercut with Marianne writing to Willoughby. Brandon wounds Willoughby, but chooses to spare his life.