Here’s The Issue With BBC’s New Les Misérables Adaptation

Photo: BBC/Lookout Point/Mitch Jenkins
When is it appropriate to announce that we just might’ve reached peak remake? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to name famous narratives that haven’t been reworked in the last few of years, and the novelty of nostalgia is starting to wear thin. And though the BBC’s reimagining of author Victor Hugo’s French classic is poised to be one of the best in a long line of Les Misérables remakes, it poses a slight problem.
This new version lands on our screens in the glorious limbo between Christmas and New Year. Split into six episodes, the mini-series delves deeper into the characters and lies closer to the original narrative. Sure, a trip to the West End, Anne Hathaway’s Oscar winning performance in the 2012 film and Jon from S Club 7's appearance as Marius back in 2003 may mean you’re familiar with the tale, but this time around you’ll be surprised by how much of what plays out is unfamiliar.
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Despite the appealing narrative and star-splattered cast - Lily Collins as Fantine, Olivia Colman as Madame Thénardier, Dominic West plays Jean Valjean and David Oyelowo is Javet - there's a lingering feeling that we're stuck in a screenplay rut. We know this one, guys. And watching a show in anticipation of what you know is coming isn't all that exciting, is it?
It's only more frustrating knowing that at the heart of the Les Misérables story is the issue of class and social mobility.
The political and social unrest that features heavily in Les Mis will undoubtedly resonate with British viewers at this particular point in time. Have you heard of the Brexit? We're knee deep in political excrement and though the themes addressed in the Hugo classic translate, where are the televised conversation starters that speak to the turmoil of now?
It feels incredibly un-festive to speak ill of the humble period drama at this time of year, especially when they're such a staple of our Christmas viewing schedules. But it has to be said.
Les Misérables has been done and done again and while the quality of the show itself is thankfully great (even though six hours of a musicless rendition of 19th century French trauma is a lot for even the most dedicated of fans), I'm not entirely convinced it's what we needed.
Les Misérables is on BBC One from 30th December at 9pm.
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