Alice-Azania Jarvis: It's time to junk the breeches and bonnets

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The Independent Online

The problem with costume dramas isn't costume dramas per se – it's the way they are done. The same few stories from the same few authors – Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens – are singled out for remake after remake after remake. Eventually a version comes along that is so bland, so eager to please, so boring that whole audiences are driven from watching any other – or even, dare I say it? – actually picking up the book.

A case in point is the current series of Emma, which appears to have been gone over with a fine-tooth comb to remove any trace of character. The set is so pristine that it could be Hollyoaks, half the costumes look like they were picked up at the local Topshop, and... hang on, is that hair gel in Mr Knightley's hair? Meanwhile, several perfectly good – and considerably more engaging – versions languish in the DVD cupboard. All this, on primetime TV, while roundly acclaimed contemporary dramas ( The Wire) and documentaries ( End of the Line) languish on late-night slots and digital channels. Surely it's time for a break from the bonnets? If not for ever, then at least long enough for directors to broaden their tastes?