Through Charles’ eyes, we see this family of great wealth living the aristocratic life, seemingly without a care in the world for many years. Of course, there are so many deceptions, and disappointments along the way that it takes a seventeen-hour mini-series to do the story justice. An underlying tenet of the book was the Catholicism of the Marchmains, which is shown to be a source of hope, pain, hypocrisy, and finally something in which Charles Ryder is unable to grasp. The simple leap of faith that happens at the end of the patriarch’s life, and an event nobody but his daughter believed would ever happen.
Brideshead Revisited was unlike any previous mini-series or “soap.” In fact, the care and expense that went into each episode is so deep, that they come across as individual films rather than chapters of a TV series. Although the subject matter is quite different, what it reminds me of in many ways is a show that came along 20 years later, The Sopranos. The quality really is that high.
Having never read Waugh’s Brideshead, I can only say that I was spellbound by the adaptation. Quite frankly, I did not realize that anyone was working this hard, and this well in British television 30 years ago. Brideshead really and truly is a magnificent accomplishment.
Included in this Acorn Media 30th Anniversary package of Brideshead Revisited are a wealth of extras, including a wonderful 2006 documentary on the making of the series, titled Revisiting Brideshead. There are also commentaries, photo galleries, and a viewer’s guide.
In the end, Brideshead Revisited won a total of 17 international awards, including an Emmy for Sir Laurence Olivier. It has also been voted the tenth greatest British program of all time. Frankly, it is about the best one I have ever seen. Do yourself a favor and take the journey to Brideshead, it is a world unlike any other, and a deeply satisfying series.