StoryMisguided stepmothers, romantic betrayals, secret marriages--these are not just the makings of modern soap operas; this is what makes the BBC's delightful four-episode miniseries Wives and Daughters come to life. Sweet Molly Gibson (played artfully by Justine Waddell, who communicates more with a squint of her eyes than most actresses can with pages of dialogue) was living life pleasantly when her widowed father (Bill Paterson) decides that, for the good of his daughter, he must remarry. In comes Claire, played to screeching perfection by Francesca Annis. Molly's life is turned upside down by the usually well meaning but off-the-mark Claire, who insists on things being done the proper way. Added to the stew is Claire's beautiful, educated daughter, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), and the Hamleys, a well-to-do family headed by a squire (Michael Gambon) who is not happy about the romantic interests of his sons.
As is typical with BBC miniseries, the quality writing and lush sets add to the overall appeal. Andrew Davies, who adapted Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones's Diary, penned the marvelous screenplay (based on Elizabeth Gaskell's unfinished novel). It's impossible not to compare this to the ever-popular Pride, and Wives and Daughters measures up. --Jenny Brown