Like a perfectly poured cup of tea, Masterpiece Theatre's The Complete Jane Austen (Sunday, PBS; Check local listings) is arriving just in time to keep viewers warm through the cold winter months. Starting Jan. 13 and running Sundays through March, the series — hosted by Gillian Anderson (Bleak House) — features all-new adaptations of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, as well as old favorites Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale, and the Emmy Award-winning Pride and Prejudice (yes, ladies, the one starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy).
Kicking off the event is Persuasion, starring Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, the shy daughter heading toward spinsterhood, and Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Sir Walter Elliot, Anne's father. "Sir Walter is a party animal who has spent all his wife's money on clothes and partying," Head says. "He detests his middle daughter because she tries to budget. I have to admit, I found it hugely enjoyable to play such a pig!"
The entire series is like "a wonderful six-volume leather edition," says Andrew Davies, who scripted the four new TV films. "Austen is perhaps the most perfect writer to adapt because she tells splendid love stories in which the heroine fights against adversity and comes out to a happy ending," he adds. "Austen supplies such good scenes [and] dialogue that one sometimes feels guilty about taking the money!"
Despite writing so convincingly about love, Austen never married, and Miss Austen Regrets (Feb. 3), a new biopic starring Olivia Williams and Hugh Bonneville, depicts her romantic trials — including two men whose proposals she rejected and the young surgeon who arrived too late to steal her heart. It's a reminder that life doesn't always play out like the plot of a Jane Austen novel.
Check out more of Jane Austen in our Online Video Guide.
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