Lost in Austen, ITV1

Did we like it?
It’s not for the likes of us, but fans of harmless froth will be lapping this up.

What was good about it?
• The high concept – a contemporary woman obsessed with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is transported into the book via a panel in her bathroom – is executed well and as believable as such tosh can be. There are similarities in Guy Andrews’ script to Life on Mars but not enough for us to cry, “Cynical Ripoff!”
• Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth Bennet. The show came alive when she appeared in the Hammersmith bathroom of P&P-mad Amanda Price.
• Hugh Bonneville as Mr Bennett is the second best thing about the series, with his ability to be so agreeable and exasperated amid the household’s noisy machinations. This makes up for his recent decision to appear in BBC1’s lamentable Bonekickers.
• The best scene in the opener featured Elizabeth playing with the light swtich in the bathroom – “With such a thing at my disposal, I would do little else but toy with it all day.” In contrast, Amanda had to face cleaning her teeth with birch twigs, salt and chalk.
• It is refreshing to see some good natured drama on TV.

What was bad about it?
• Jemima Rooper can’t quite carry the show as Amanda, either in the present with her burping, drunken boyfriend or in the past with the bustling Bennets. As ever, Jemima is pleasant to watch but never captivating. We’d have much preferred to watch Elizabeth in modern London than Amanda in 18th-century Netherfield,
• Alex Kingston’s Mrs Bennett pales in comparison with Alison Steadman’s memorable BBC1 rendition of the role. And how many more times can Pippa Haywood play Washed-up Worn-down Chainsmoking Woman?
• Elliot Cowan (Mr Darcy) and Tom Mison (Mr Bingley) aren’t exactly breech-bulging studs – but neither was Colin Firth and the ladies loved him.
• There was clumsiness about some of the culture clashes. Most contrived was the confusion over the psalter. Amanda doesn’t know it’s a book of pslams and guesses that it is “a picnic thing for seasoning sandwiches”. The “float my boat” scene came a close second in risibleness.


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