Oh happy day. :) The Masterpiece Classic schedule was released today, and all things considered I have to say I'm quite pleased and excited by the line up. Take a look:
December 20, 2009-January 3, 2010, 9pm Cranford (Encore Presentation) Three episodes (Episode one 120 minutes; episode two 60 minutes; episode three 120 minutes) The Emmy-nominated drama about a small English village in 1842 on the brink of change — where some find romance and opportunity, and others fear the breakdown of social order.
January 10-17, 2010, 9pm Return to Cranford (Two 90-minute episodes) The construction of a new railroad line is at once thrilling and threatening to the residents of Cranford. This sequel stars Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton and Julia McKenzie. New faces include Jonathan Pryce and Tim Curry.
January 24-February 7, 2010, 9pm Emma Three episodes (Episode one 120 minutes; episodes two and three 60 minutes) A new adaptation of Jane Austen's comic tale of a headstrong young woman's failed matchmaking schemes. Starring Romola Garai, Michael Gambon and Jonny Lee Miller.
February 14, 2010, 9pm Northanger Abbey (Encore Presentation) One 90-minute episode In a medieval house that appeals to her most lurid fantasies, romance addict Catherine Moreland (Felicity Jones) begins a relationship with the younger son of the estate in this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.
February 21, 2010, 9pm Persuasion (Encore Presentation) One 90-minute episode Sally Hawkins plays Jane Austen's Anne Elliot, a woman destined for spinsterhood after refusing a proposal eight years earlier. Then her spurned suitor reappears.
February 28, 2010, 9pm The 39 Steps One 90-minute episodeSecret agent Richard Hannay battles German spies on the eve of World War I in a riveting and romantic new version of the thriller by John Buchan. Rupert-Penry Jones (Persuasion) stars as Hannay.
March 28, 2010, 9pm Sharpe's Challenge One 120-minute episode Soldier-adventurer Richard Sharpe comes out of retirement to quash a rebellion in British India. Sean Bean returns as the swashbuckling hero of this series based on Bernard Cornwell's novels. Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi guest stars.
April 4, 2010, 9pm Sharpe's Peril One 120-minute episode The adventures of Colonel Richard Sharpe continue as he leads a ragtag party of civilians and soldiers on a march across India, with the murderous army of an opium lord in hot pursuit.
April 11, 2010, 9pm The Diary of Anne Frank One 120-minute episode The most accurate adaptation of Anne Frank's account of hiding from the Nazis stars newcomer Ellie Kendrick as the maturing teenager undergoing an extraordinary ordeal. The Diary of Anne Frank airs on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2010.
April 18-25, 2010, 9pm Small Island Two 90-minute episodes When an ambitious Jamaican woman moves to gritty post-war London, she finds that the "Mother Country" is not the land of opportunity she had imagined. Starring Naomie Harries, Ruth Wilson and Benedict Cumberbatch.
You can watch a short preview of the new season here.
I realize I've already mentioned once or twice (HA!) that I'm looking forward to Return to Cranford and the new Emma (seriously, can not WAIT to see Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley!). If you've never seen the first Cranford miniseries, be sure to take advantage of the encore presentation in a few weeks if it airs in your market.
I could've lived without the other Jane Austen encores, because 1) I have the DVDs and 2) I have an insatiable hunger for new British programs, but if you've never seen them they're definitely worth checking out. On the other hand, I'm positively thrilled at the inclusion of two World War II-era programs. I'm REALLY looking forward to checking out the new version of The 39 Steps starring the yummy Rupert Penry-Jones (if you've never seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock film version of this story, I have to recommend it as well - though my guess is TCM will probably schedule a showing around the time this new version debuts on PBS), and I vaguely recall hearing some pretty good things about the new version of the Anne Frank story. The Sharpe movies can be diverting, but frankly this is like Sean Bean's 500 millionth turn as Sharpe and he (and the series) is getting a little long in the tooth IMO. But whatever, like I said, will most likely be entertaining in some respect, if only to try and spot other British talent in guest star spots. However, I've got to end by saying I'm really looking forward to the final program of the season, Small Island. I read a bit about it a couple of months ago at the BBC press office, and the story sounds fascinating, and you can't beat the cast - Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Wilson, and Naomie Harris.
All in all, this is a season not to be missed, and you can be sure that it will be well blogged about here. :)