David Lister: It's not time to junk the breeches and bonnets

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The death of the costume drama on the BBC has been declared before. By the BBC. In the Eighties the Corporation decided that the public no longer had an appetite for it, and barely made any, denying a generation adaptations of the classics. Then in the Nineties it made the excellent Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version of
Pride and Prejudice to critical and public acclaim, and the senior BBC executive Michael Jackson went on the
Today programme to apologise for keeping costume dramas off the air.

Ok, they are back with a vengeance these days. But the negativity about the current adaptation of Emma is not because of a distaste for costume dramas per se. It is because this version of Emma, with its absurdly young Mr Knightley, isn't much good. And there have been too many Emmas. There are a lot of classic novels the BBC ignores.

Put on a well-scripted, beautifully acted costume drama, preferably of a novel that's not adapted that often, and there is still a huge audience for it. At Christmas, Judi Dench returns with a two-part special of Cranford, one of the BBC's best adaptations of recent years. Watch the ratings soar, and then tell me costume drama is dead.

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