By all logic, there wouldn’t be a second “Sanditon” season … or even a first one.
Its author (Jane Austen) had died after barely starting the novel. Two centuries later, the production company bailed out after one season; some key actors departed.
Yet here it is, starting its second PBS season (shown here) at 9 p.m. Sunday (March 20), two years after the first one ended. A lush and popular show is back … and renewed for a third season. A separate story (under “news and quick comments”) looked at the show’s rescue. Now here’s a guide to some of the sweeping changes:
British shows rarely require long commitments. Some actors – leading men, mostly – drop out.
That has included Dan Stevens in “Downton Abbey,” Rege-Jean Page in “Bridgerton” and now Theo James in “Sanditon,” where he was Charlotte’s true love, Sidney Parker.
“Theo made it very clear he didn’t want to come back,” said producer Justin Young. At the end of the first season, Sidney became engaged to a wealthy widow, to rescue his brother’s floundering project. The rest is resolved quickly, proviing an “enormous emotional event” as the season starts, Young said..
WHO ELSE IS GONE?
Other characters who vanished because the actors weren’t available include:
– James Stringer, a foreman and architect who loved Charlotte from afar.
– Diana Parker, Sidney’s sister.
– Mrs. Griffiths, the chaperone for three women (including Georgiana Lambe) who aren’t yet 18.
– And Lord Babington, who married Esther Denham at the end of the first season.
– Charlotte Heywood, a classic Jane Austen heroine. A farmer’s daughter, she has no money, but a good education and strong opinions. “She’s still in her early 20s,” said Rose Williams, 28, who plays her. “But in that time” it seemed important to marry early.
– Georgiana Lambe, the lone Black person in this town’s upper society. She’s 17, an islander who will inherit a fortune via sugar … which she boycotts, because of slavery. Like Charlotte, she speaks out. “I have a tendency to just say what’s on my mind anyway, in real life,” said Crystal Clarke, who plays her.
– Tom Parker, Sidney’s brother, a dreamer who is trying to turn a tiny town into a seaside resort. Also, Tom’s wife Mary and his brother Arthur – a chubby, friendly chap who’s easily underestimated.
– Lady Denham, who is rich and sharp-tongued. Also, her nephew Edward and his step-sister Esther. Esther was in love with Edward, but he schemed to get his aunt’s fortune and was sent away.
– Clara Brereton, who also tried to get the fortune of her aunt, Lady Denham. She had sex with her cousin Edward – one of several lustful scenes that viewers objected to. “We heard that from our fans and … there’s less of that in the next season,” said Susanne Simpson, the “Masterpiece” chief.
– Others, including the vicar, his sister (Georgiana’s new chaperone) and an ill-informed doctor.
– Alexander Colbourne, a solitary widower, raising his teen niece and his young daughter. Mr. Rochester (from Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” novel) “was certainly an influence,” Young said.
– Charles Lockhart, an eccentric artist.
– An entire unit of redcoated soldiers. Austen’s novels were big on that, Young said. “Bringing a soldier was something Jane would have done.” That includes the handsome Col. Francis Lennox and two captains – young lover William Carter and the wiser Declan Fraser.
– And someone to admire all those soldiers. That’s Alison Heywood, Charlotte’s sister. “Jane was very, very close to her sister,” Young said, and she often gave her heroine some sisterly warmth. Alison also offers “wide-eyed innocence” – a sharp contrast to the guarded depth of many Austen heroines.