Great Expectations
by Phil Boatwright

The classic Dickens tale airs Sundays, April 1 and 8 at 9:00pm on the PBS Masterpiece Theater.

An orphan boy meets an escaped convict, a crazed rich woman, a bewitching girl, and grows up to have great expectations of wealth from a mysterious patron in this remarkable rags-to-riches-to-self-knowledge drama. Starring Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Bleak House), David Suchet, Ray Winstone and Douglas Booth. The three-hour mini-series airs in two parts (check your local listings for local times on April 1st and 8th).

PREVIEW REVIEW: Though this is great storytelling, the production lacks elements found in the 1946 David Lean film adaptation. In that production, John Mills heads an all-star English cast, including Jean Simmons and Alec Guinness. Yes, it is an old film and, yes, it is in black and white, two turnoffs for today’s teenager. But the opening scene is a grabber, despite any prejudice. Directed by a filmmaker who knew how to handle an epic story with style and pacing, David Lean (DR. ZHIVAGO, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), this intriguing mystery about young Pip, his love interest, Estella, and the embittered Miss Havisham is brought to life in one of the best movies ever made. Several Oscars went to this vivid interpretation of the Charles Dickens human interest story.

Still, this new TV presentation has its merits, despite a limp performance by Douglas Booth as Pip, and the underwhelming Vanessa Kirby as Estella. Others in the cast hold their own and director Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones, Luther) manages to capture the mood of the novel and keeps the production moving alone at a bright pace.

It’s likely to be the best program airing those nights on television. I’d say it’s worth a view. But by all means, rent Mr. Lean’s interpretation. You’ll be mesmerized.