StoryGranada Television's adaptation of The Forsyte Saga achieved the seemingly impossible in spring 2002, matching the BBC's 35-year-old black-and-white classic version with a richly cast and superbly directed take on John Galsworthy's first two novels. The success of these six 90-minute episodes proved that despite the current emphasis on miniseries and dramas developed around the hot actor of the moment, our appetite--and attention span--still craves ensemble pieces that are given space and time to develop. It also demonstrates that nothing generates television gold like a compelling family drama crammed with lust, rape, class conflict, and the insuperable power of money.
The Forsyte Saga is nothing if not superior soap opera. It could all have gone horribly wrong, haunted by the specter of its BBC predecessor--a television legend for anyone over 40. Instead, it succeeds entirely on its own merits with scarcely a weak link--from Stephen Mallatratt's taut and fluid script to David Moore's carefully measured, seamless direction. Risks were taken to banish the old ghosts, particularly in the casting. Damian Lewis's repressed Soames and Gina McKee as his ill-matched bride, the enigmatic Irene, are inspired choices delivering complex portraits of unhappy, damaged human beings who deserve our sympathy. In a sea of marvelous cameos and splendid acting, the top honors go to Corin Redgrave and Rupert Graves for their hauntingly sensitive interpretations of old and young Jolyon, as well as to Amanda Root for her increasingly exasperated Winifred and Gillian Kearney for her sharply intelligent and worldly June. --Piers Ford
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