So we have yet another Oliver Twist coming to our screens this Winter. The BBC is set to broadcast a new version of Charles Dickens's well-loved tale starring newcomer William Millar as Oliver, Timothy Spall as Fagin and Tom Hardy as the pyschopathic Sykes with Sophie Okonedo as poor Nancy. The five-part series has been penned by Sarah Phelps, who is best-known for her work on Eastenders, while Coky Giedroyc, who directed Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen, takes the helm.
But do we really need more Oliver Twist? There are plentiful other 'classic' novels to adapt to screen ... so why the paltry lack of imagination?
Clearly this is seen as wholesome, on-message family viewing with a heart of gold; a re-working of a familiar, well-loved tale. However, a truly searing, realistic version of Oliver Twist , which offered an unflinching portrayal of the despicable cruelties and craven hypocrisies of the Victorian era, would probably prove to be wholly unpalatable to the family audiences TV broadcasters hope to entice. Dickens certainly intended Oliver Twist to expose the crass indecencies and misfortunes inflicted on children at the heart of his society. Sure, he over-sentimentalised his subject (as was his wont), but this was nothing compared to the sanitised saccharine-sweetness which has sugar-coated almost every televisual/filmic outing of the novel ever since. Let's hope the BBC's promises (as stipulatd in the corporation's press release) for a 'darkly thrilling' production with a 'modern edge', lives up to its hype.