(“Sanditon” is finally back, after a too-long gap. A separate piece here, under “stories,” is a guide to the second season, which starts at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 20, on PBS. Alongside that, however, I thought I should repeat a previous story, talking about the show’s rescue. Here it is, slightly shortened.)
Even before “Sanditon” (shown here) reached America two years ago, PBS had a dilemma.
Like virtually everything on “Masterpiece Theatre,” this was a global project, with a British network paying more and getting it first. And that network had already decided not to do a second season.
“We knew that (it) had been canceled before it even aired on ‘Masterpiece,’” Susanne Simpsons, the “Masterpiece” producer, said in a Television Critics Association virtual press conference.
She was taking a chance: If there never was a second year, characters would have been left hanging; viewers would have been bitter. Since this is based on a novel that Jane Austen had barely started before her death in 1817, they couldn’t check a book to see how it ends.
“Masterpiece” launched that first year, while scrambling. “Our conversations about how to bring the series back actually started a little bit before the series was a great success for us,” Simpson said.
That became a long conversation, rounding up new British investors; it was also complicated by the pandemic. The second season’s start on March 20 is more than two years after the first ended. Along the way, several key actors dropped out.
That started with Theo James as Sidney Parker, who spent the first season as the love interest (and verbal sparring partner) of Charlotte Heywood, the show’s heroine. (They’re shown here.)
When the first season ended, Sidney was leaving to marry a rich woman, rescuing his brother’s shaky finances.
Other actors had also dropped out. They played Diana Parker, Sidney’s hypochondriac sister … James Stringer, a foreman who loved Charlotte from afar … Lord Babington, an empty-headed man of means … and Mrs. Griffiths, visiting with three young charges.
But most actors returned, including the two key women – Rose Williams as Charlotte and Crystal Clarke as Georgina Lambe, a biracial 17-year-old who will be rich when she turns 18. In the tradition of Austen heroines, both are blunt, practical and skeptical.
Now there’s a counterpoint — the arrival of Charlotte’s younger sister, whose only interest is marrying a guy who has good looks and, perhaps, some money.
There are lots of new guys for them to admire this year, some of them officers in redcoat splendor. Charlotte, however, is far more skeptical.
Two centuries later, people can relate to Charlotte, Williams said. She’s “like the whole planet (that) went through so much” in 2020 and can “come back with a fresh perspective.”