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Last week, I explored programs that originated at the BBC and aired on American radios during World War II.
Brideshead Revisited was the TV miniseries of the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh.
The series, like the book, begins near the end, with Captain Ryder and his troops feeling demoralized. Their problems stemmed not from the horrors of war but from the power-hungry commanders whose orders made no sense to those tasked with carrying them out. The nation is at war, but this group of soldiers are moved, yet again, within England to a large gracious house called Brideshead.
As I’m in the midst of my A to Z Challenge posts that tilt too far in the direction of romanticization and nostalgia about World War II, the initial scenes of Brideshead Revisited were a good reminder of the waste and futility of war.
The series, like the book, quickly takes us back in time to when Charles Ryder was a student at Oxford in the 1920s. He establishes a relationship with Sebastian Flyte, second son of the family who owns Brideshead.
I was a student in college when Brideshead Revisited aired in 1981 in the UK and on PBS in the US beginning in January 1982. I vaguely recall hearing about it, but I wasn’t watching TV at the time. I drew my ideal college experience from 1960s Berkeley. That turned out to be fairly dissatisfying model for me in the 1980s.
Perhaps, I would have done better if I’d adopted 1920s Oxford as my ideal college experience. I went to a university that had lovely collegiate gothic architecture, which was a good start. I could have found a group of friends to watch Brideshead Revisited in the dorm lounge, changed my major from computer science to English literature, and done a year abroad in the UK. Although, the last two would have required more money than I had. I don’t imagine that my parents would have willingly paid tuition at the most expensive institution in our state for an English degree. My desire for a year abroad didn’t survive the first tentative conversation with my parents who questioned the practical value of such an endeavor.
Since this is the story of Charles Ryder’s life from the 1920s to the war, the setting moves out of Oxford and into the greater world, often at Brideshead. Castle Howard plays the role of Brideshead. Castle Howard has been a location in many films, most recently Bridgerton.
I’ve never read the book, but the miniseries is said to be a faithful adaptation. Jeremy Irons, as Charles Ryder, frequently narrates the inner dialogue of the character which very much gives the feeling of seeing a book brought to life on screen.
I watched this on Britbox via Amazon Prime. The DVDs are widely available in libraries.
Did you watch this show in the 1980s or since? What did you think?