After successfully seeking adventures overseas, Sanditon is back on British television for a rerun.
The return of Andrew Davies’ (Pride & Prejudice, Mr Selfridge) eight-part adaptation of Jane Austen’s final uncompleted novel is a triumphant one, with the series now an international hit with a global fanbase desperate to see more of the seaside saga.
Here, our guest writer G. Clifford looks at the Sanditon phenomenon…
Produced for ITV as a co-production with PBS Masterpiece, Sanditon – which stars Rose Williams (Medici), Theo James (Downton Abbey), Kris Marshall (Death in Paradise), and Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) – first aired on ITV during the late summer and early autumn of 2019.
Fans of period drama in the UK, may have missed it however, as bizarre scheduling placed it up against the surging global hit Peaky Blinders on BBC One.
Coupled with episode one airing on the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer and virtually no on-air promotion happening after it premiered, the result, unsurprisingly, was disappointing ratings in the UK for the fledgling drama.
ITV decided in December last year not to back a much-needed second season for what had always been intended as a continuing drama. That could easily have meant the end for Sanditon, but that was before it aired in the United States and 21 other countries worldwide.
Millions have since fallen in love with the story of Charlotte Heywood (Williams) whose life is changed by a twist of fate which, brings her to Tom Parker’s (Marshall) aspiring seaside resort where she encounters his brother, the handsome, brooding and mysterious Sidney Parker (James).
The series doubled PBS Masterpiece’s prime time average ratings, becoming one of their most successful dramas of the season. Praise stateside was plentiful. The New York Times named it as one of their 50 shows to watch during the winter season, with Vogue citing it as one of the best dramas on the air in the US.
USA Today described it as one of the best Jane Austen adaptations ever made, while CNN called it “a modern masterpiece.”
The novel moves Austen from the familiar terrain of landed gentry and country squires to a setting of entrepreneurs, men with ambition and women whose financial status was their power, their purpose and in some cases, their torment. The adaptation doesn’t shy away from exploring the situation of women at that time, nor of the power of money to taint and corrupt the natures of both those who possess it and those who seek it.
The story also features Austen’s first and only black character, the young Antiguan heiress Georgiana Lambe, played by Crystal Clarke (Ordeal By Innocence). In addition to addressing familiar Austen terrain and tropes, the story touches on issues of racism and the barbarism of slavery, giving it a relevance which is hauntingly prescient.
Miss Lambe’s is one of many journeys which cries out to be developed and explored in what is a fresh, bracing, urgent take on a long established genre. Like the fragment on which it’s based, Sanditon sadly remains incomplete, with the series ending at a pivotal point in the narrative.
Just as the characters and the storylines begin to form, coalesce with purpose and ignite. Fans continue to hope that this enforced hiatus may not be for long. Thousands have joined an online campaign demanding more and they’re making an impact.
More than 65,000 fans have signed a petition on Change.org seeking a second season to allow for a continuation and eventual conclusion to the story. As a result of their ongoing commitment and energy, social media has exploded.
Since March 1, the #Sanditon hashtag has more than 3 million Tweets and #SaveSanditon is approaching that figure. The top 10 Sanditon YouTube fan videos now have over 6.2 million views.
Such is the clamour, that Amazon Prime UK have taken notice and a recent tweet telling fans the streaming service is currently exploring the potential for a second season, was retweeted almost 14,000 times.
For Sanditon and its fans, the dream may not yet be over. Davies could yet complete his narrative and Austen’s legacy may finally be honoured.
So why not grab your towel, reserve a bathing machine, and catch the waves this summer, at Regency England’s most aspirational seaside resort.
Join the #SanditonSisterhood and find out what all the fuss is about, as Sanditon airs again on ITV3 on Sunday nights at 10pm from 26th July.
Sanditon is available to watch on Amazon Prime.