Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (TV series)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a seven-part British historical fantasy TV miniseries adapted by Peter Harness from Susanna Clarke's best-selling novel of the same name. It premiered on BBC One on 17 May 2015 and ended on 28 June 2015. It was nominated for four BAFTA awards and recognised by the British Film Institute as one of the top ten most important television programmes of 2015.
|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|
|Based on||Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|
by Susanna Clarke
|Country of origin|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||7 (list of episodes)|
|Editor(s)||Peter Christelis, Philip Kloss|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Picture format||16:9 1080i|
|Original release||17 May –|
28 June 2015
Set in England during the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the series presents an alternative history where magic is widely acknowledged, but rarely practiced. Living in the rural north, Mr Norrell (Eddie Marsan) of Hurtfew Abbey is able to make the statues of York Minster talk and move. His manservant John Childermass (Enzo Cilenti) persuades him to travel to London to help in the war against France.
While there, Mr Norrell encounters a leading member of the government and makes magic respectable in the realm when he conjures a fairy, called the Gentleman (Marc Warren), to bring the minister's fiancée (Alice Englert) back to life. Meanwhile, Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) meets Vinculus (Paul Kaye), a street magician, while attempting to find a respectable profession, as demanded by his love Arabella (Charlotte Riley). Strange is told by Vinculus that he is destined to be a great magician and so he begins to study magic.
- Bertie Carvel as Jonathan Strange
- Eddie Marsan as Gilbert Norrell
- Marc Warren as The Gentleman
- Charlotte Riley as Arabella Strange
- Alice Englert as Lady Emma Pole
- Samuel West as Sir Walter Pole
- Enzo Cilenti as John Childermass
- Paul Kaye as Vinculus
- Edward Hogg as John Segundus
- Ariyon Bakare as Stephen Black
- Vincent Franklin as Christopher Drawlight
- John Heffernan as Henry Lascelles
- Brian Pettifer as Mr Honeyfoot
- Robbie O'Neill as Lucas
- Richard Durden as Lord Liverpool
- Freddie Hogan as Davey
- Claudia Jessie as Mary
- Ronan Vibert as Lord Wellington
- Steve Jackson as Jeremy Johns
- Jamie Parker as Grant
- Phoebe Nicholls as Mrs Wintertowne
- Clive Mantle as Dr Greysteel
- Lucinda Dryzek as Flora Greysteel
- Niall Greig Fulton as The Raven King
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||"The Friends of English Magic"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||17 May 2015||4.50|
|Reclusive Mr Norrell comes to London from York to bring English magic back to prominence, three centuries after it seemingly died out. He resurrects Sir Walter Pole's deceased fiancée, Emma Wintertowne, by making a bargain with the mysterious Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair. Meanwhile, charismatic young Jonathan Strange is told that he has the makings of a magician.|
|2||"How Is Lady Pole?"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||24 May 2015||2.60|
|Mr Norrell finds that something is amiss with Lady Pole and soon realizes that the Gentleman is behind it. Sir Walter's servant Stephen and Lady Pole are enchanted by the Gentleman and taken away each night. Meanwhile, Strange impresses the newly renowned Mr Norrell and becomes his apprentice.|
|3||"The Education of a Magician"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||31 May 2015||2.20|
|Pressed into service for the war against France, Strange receives a less than warm welcome from the Duke of Wellington in Lisbon. He soon makes himself useful, but treads dangerous waters by dabbling in dark magic. Meanwhile, Lady Pole is desperate to communicate her and Stephen's plight to Arabella, though she is enchanted against doing so.|
|4||"All the Mirrors of the World"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||7 June 2015||1.78|
|A suicidal Lady Pole tries to kill Mr Norrell, but fails and is placed in the care of Segundus and Honeyfoot. Strange discovers a world behind mirrors, and he and Mr Norrell part ways with irreconcilable differences.|
|5||"Arabella"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||14 June 2015||1.80|
|Arabella is tricked into going to the realm of the Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair; Strange is deceived by her black magic substitute, which dies, leaving him in mourning. Mr Norrell tries to quash the publication of Strange's book about magic.|
|6||"The Black Tower"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||21 June 2015||1.60|
|Mr Norrell uses underhanded magic to make Strange's book literally disappear. Isolating himself in Venice, Strange finally manages to summon the Gentleman. Following him to Lost Hope, Strange discovers that Arabella, Lady Pole and Stephen are under the fairy's spell, but the Gentleman uses all of his strength to cast Strange out and lay a curse of darkness upon him.|
|7||"Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell"||Toby Haynes||Peter Harness||28 June 2015||1.70|
|Strange returns to England in hopes of uniting with Mr Norrell to bring back the Raven King, defeat the Gentleman and regain Arabella.|
On 30 November 2012, the BBC announced that an adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell had been commissioned for BBC One. The production was officially greenlit as a seven-hour miniseries in April 2013, with a projected 2014 premiere date. BBC America noted that it would broadcast the miniseries during its "Supernatural Saturday" science fiction and fantasy programming block.
Adapted by Harness and directed by Toby Haynes, the series was produced by Nick Hirschkorn, with executive producers Nick Marston, Tally Garner, Dixie Linder, Justin Thomson-Glover, Patrick Irwin and Matthew Read. Co-production credits are shared by Cuba Pictures and BBC America, Feel Films, Far Moor, Screen Yorkshire and Space.
Co-Production Countries were Canada (20.42%) United Kingdom (79.58%) and shot in Canada, the UK, and Croatia.
The BBC announced the casting of Carvel and Marsan in the title roles in October 2013, as well as Warren as The Gentleman, Riley as Arabella, West and Englert as Sir Walter and Lady Pole, Cilenti as Childermass and Kaye as Vinculus. A read-through of the script took place on 23 October 2013. Filming began on 28 October 2013 in Yorkshire, Canada and Croatia. Author Clarke visited the set in November 2013.
The series premiered in the UK on 17 May 2015. It later debuted in the US on BBC America on 13 June 2015, in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central on 3 July 2015, and in Australia on BBC First on 6 August 2015.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was positively received by critics. It holds an overall 91% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a critics' rating of 71/100 on Metacritic. It was selected for preservation in the BFI National Archive as one of the ten best TV programmes of 2015, as well as being nominated for four BAFTA Awards and seven RTS Yorkshire awards.
Evan Ferguson of The Observer wrote that you could describe it as "Harry Potter for adults" but that it was "far snakier and more thrilling" and likened it more to Peter Shaffer's Amadeus: "It’s in the Sunday-night slot lately reserved for Poldark. And it’s 10 times better." Nick Horton was even more enthusiastic in his Den of Geek review:
"What are some of the best British dramas of recent years? Here’s just a few. Wolf Hall, Utopia, Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Luther, Doctor Who and In The Flesh. It's been said to death but remains the case: we truly are in a golden age of original British drama. But now you might just have to make room for a new favourite. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the finest new drama that’s been on our screens this decade. In fact, if the first two episodes are anything to go by, it could go down as one of the best this century."
While Louisa Mellor added that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell "has that rare power to engulf" making it:
"...ideal for swallowing in a single gulp. Watched back-to-back, its chapters coalesce into one marvellous, unbroken tale. It’s a bedtime story with tremendous scope; one that will transport you from Yorkshire to London to a Belgian battlefield to Venice, the other realm of Faerie and beyond."
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that viewers would be "dazzled" by the series, calling the special effects "exquisitely executed" and noting that "Every performance is a winner, from Marsan’s mousey Norrell, to Carvel’s brash Jonathan, to Englert’s increasingly mad and self-destructive Lady Pole." Emmet Asher-Perrin praised the overall series at Tor.com but noted, "the ending of this series was altogether abrupt and unsatisfying for my tastes". Mike Hale of The New York Times called it "a largely unremarkable mini-series", adding:
That’s not to put down this BBC production ... but to warn those who enjoyed the best-selling book to temper their expectations. ...Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is great to look at. It moves along at a gallop, and it’s not boring, even if it’s not exactly engaging either. Most important, it has appealing performances by Bertie Carvel as Strange and particularly by Eddie Marsan as the crabbed and proud Norrell. In this one regard, the mini-series can be considered an improvement on the book, where the characterizations of the two magicians were a bit abstract and airless.
George R. R. Martin wrote in his Livejournal about popular novels and their adaptations:
"I saw the BBC production of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell before I finally got around to reading Susanna Clarke's novel. In both cases, I loved the book and I loved the adaptation. It does not need to be one or the other. You might prefer one over the other, but you can still enjoy the hell out of both."
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