Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Casual Vacancy Miniseries: By J.K. Rowling

It premiered on HBO in the U.S. April 29th and my wife and I saw the first two of three episodes of the Miniseries set in England. We found it sort of creepy like a mini-series on a meditation on Death and impermanence. This was our thought about it. However, it is well written and sort of a mystery.

The Casual Vacancy (miniseries)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from The Casual Vacancy (TV series))
The Casual Vacancy
Genre Drama
Based on The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Written by Sarah Phelps[1]
Directed by Jonny Campbell[1]
Starring Rory Kinnear
Michael Gambon
Julia McKenzie
Keeley Hawes
Simon McBurney
Richard Glover
Marie Critchley
Composer(s) Solomon Grey
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 3[2][3]
Executive producer(s) J. K. Rowling
Neil Blair
Paul Trijbits
Rick Senat[2]
Producer(s) Ruth Kenley-Letts[1]
Editor(s) Tom Hemmings
Cinematography Tony Slater-Ling
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Brontë Film and Television
Distributor BBC (UK)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution (Worldwide)[4]
Original channel BBC One
Original run 15 February 2015 – 1 March 2015
External links
The Casual Vacancy is a 2015 British miniseries based on the novel of the same title by J. K. Rowling.[5] Directed by Jonny Campbell from a screenplay by Sarah Phelps, the series premiered on 15 February 2015 in the United Kingdom and will premiere on 29 April 2015 in the United States.[6]
The miniseries is a joint production of the BBC and HBO.[2]




The plot centres on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind its pretty façade, however, is a town at war: rich at war with the poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, and teachers at war with their students.

Differences from the novel

Various changes were made to the story when adapting it for television.
  • In the novel, public opinion in Pagford is divided over the parish council's impending decision to reassign the Fields, a run-down sink estate, to the district council of the nearby city, Yarvil – thereby off-loading responsibility for its drug-addled inhabitants, and driving them out of the school catchment area. In the TV series, however, the controversial issue is whether to close the local community centre, including its methadone clinic, and convert the country house (gifted to the village by a philanthropist) where it is located into a spa.
  • Barry and Simon are half-brothers in the TV series (which gives Simon extra incentive to run for the council since he believes he will get sympathy votes), while they are of no relation in the novel.
  • Barry and Mary have four children in the novel, however they do not appear nor are they referred to in the TV version.
  • Gavin Hughes, Catherine Weedon, Patricia Mollison and Dane Tully are omitted in the TV series.
  • In the novel, Barry Fairbrother works as a bank manager; in the TV series, he is partners with Miles Mollison in a solicitors' firm (which is Gavin Hughes's job in the novel).
  • No mention is made of Krystal's talent for rowing in the TV version.
  • In the book, Krystal wants to attends Barry's funeral, but stays home to keep her drug-addicted mother out of trouble. In the TV series, Krystal takes Robbie to the funeral and speaks with Fats by Barry's grave.
  • The book, Barry knows Krystal because she is a member of the school rowing team he coaches. In the TV series, Barry knows Krystal's mother, Terry, from his time growing up in the Fields. In both, his interest in Krystal is based on the fact that he grew up in the Fields and has done well for himself, and he believes Krystal can do the same.
  • Aubrey and Julia Fawley become Lord and Lady Sweetlove in the TV series. In the novel, the Fawleys only descended through a collateral line from the aristocratic Sweetloves, and bought the house in the 1950s.
  • Barry Fairbrother's coffin is a regular coffin, instead of the environment-friendly wicker that outrages Howard Mollison. Also cut from Barry Fairbrother's funeral service is Rihanna's song Umbrella, played at the end to the shock of the attendees, in reference to Krystal Weedon's performance of it during their rowing competition bus trips.
  • Colin in the novel is shown to have excessive OCD to the point he constantly worries about having inappropriate thoughts about children and Fats reveals this on The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother account destroying any chance he had of being elected to the vacant seat on the council. In the TV series, Colin is simply shown to be incredibly awkward and indecisive and in fact loses the election by one single vote (with Colin having voted against himself).
  • In the TV series a new scene was added were Fats masturbated with Krystal in the philosophy section of Pagford library to send Colin "feral".
  • In the novel, Tessa Wall is shown to be overweight and diabetic. In the TV series, Tessa does not appear to have any of these problems
  • In the novel, Gaia and Kay Bawden's relationship is shown to be strained after they moved to Pagford from London, to be with Kay's boyfriend Gavin, against Gaia's will and their race is not stated. However, in the TV series, they are both black, they moved to be in 'white country' and their relationship appears to be close and strong.
  • Parminder brings up Howard's weight problem (breaching doctor-patient confidentiality) during a council meeting in the book, while on the TV series it occurs during a dinner party.
  • A subplot from the novel involving Samantha Mollison having an escapist infatuation with a singer from a One Direction-like boy band, and eventually kissing Andrew Price, is absent from the TV series. Instead, Samantha is briefly shown flirting with Vikram Jawanda and the series focuses on the animosity between her and Shirley, with Shirley turning Samantha's daughters against her.
  • In the novel, Howard's affair with Maureen is revealed to the teens by Patricia Mollison, Howard and Shirley's lesbian daughter who is somewhat shunned by the family but is invited to Howard's birthday party. In the TV series, Andrew Price catches Howard and Maureen in the act, films it, and posts it on the parish council's website.
  • In the novel, upon finding out about Howard's affair with Maureen, Shirley is on her way to kill him when she finds he has had a heart attack. In the TV series, Howard is present when she finds out about the affair which is what causes the heart attack and while Shirley makes no direct attempt to kill him, she is initially willing to let him die rather than call an ambulance.
  • In the novel, Obbo rapes Krystal after she refused to allow Terri to buy drugs from him, while in the TV series Krystal got Obbo arrested and upon his release from prison he only promised revenge before her death.
  • In the novel, Krystal leaves Robbie unattended in a grassy field while she goes to have sex with Fats in an attempt to get pregnant. Robbie goes down to the bank of a river, falls in, and drowns, and the resulting guilt causes Krystal to commit suicide via a heroin overdose. In the TV series it is only Krystal who dies; rather than having sex with Fats, she claims she is already pregnant by him (it is not revealed if this is the truth) only for him to reject her. When she finds Robbie missing, Krystal goes down to the river bank and sees his shoe floating in the river. Assuming that Robbie has fallen in, she jumps in to try and find him, however she gets tangled up in some cables from a television and a computer that Simon had thrown into the river some days earlier, and she drowns. Robbie had not actually fallen into the water; after losing his shoe while play fishing, he was found by Vikram Jawanda out on a morning run, who took him home for safety. As a result of these events, Robbie is finally removed from Terri and taken into care.
  • Sukhvinder Jawanda is reduced to a background part and depicted as an only daughter; her prettier, smarter and more popular siblings Jaswant and Rajpal are never seen. Her self-harm caused by her repeated bullying and her feeling that she does not live up to her mother's expectations is cut entirely, and she does not leave a message on the parish council website as "The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother" claiming that her mother was in love with Barry Fairbrother. She also is not present when Krystal drowns, and her feat of heroism is not featured. She does serve as the narrator for the recap sequences in Episodes Two and Three and is frequently seen as a silent witness to what goes on in the town.
  • The TV adaptation is set in the early summer of 2015 (a stone marker at Sweelove House gives the date it was bequeathed to the village as 1865, and Episode Two recap sequence says this took place 150 years ago), while the novel is set in around 2008 (there is a reference to a grave of someone who died in 2008 as one of the "newer graves" at the cemetery in Yarvil, and it is around the time the song Umbrella was released).



The miniseries was announced on 3 December 2012.[5] It was commissioned from The Blair Partnership who represent J. K. Rowling. The series was produced through an independent production company operated by Neil Blair and Rick Senat (who were executive producers of the series), on behalf of The Blair Partnership. The deal was struck following discussions between Blair and BBC One Controller Danny Cohen. J. K. Rowling was to collaborate closely with the project, with the number and length of the episodes then still to be decided.[11]
On 12 September 2013, Warner Bros. announced that it will serve as the worldwide TV distributor of the series, except in the United Kingdom.[12]
After a year and a half without news on the production itself, casting was announced in June 2014. Filming began in August 2014 in the Gloucestershire towns of Painswick, Bisley, Northleach and Minchinhampton, Dauntsey, and in the city of Bristol.
British band Solomon Grey composed the music for the series which heavily features tracks from their 2015 album Selected Works along with original songs.[13]


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers
(million) Sourced from BARB
1 "Episode 1" Jonny Campbell Sarah Phelps February 15, 2015 8.80
The village of Pagford is left in shock when a local resident dies. Pagford is seemingly an English idyll, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a community at war.
2 "Episode 2" Jonny Campbell Sarah Phelps February 22, 2015 6.39
The parish council election approaches and Pagford is on tenterhooks awaiting the next post from 'the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother'.
3 "Episode 3" Jonny Campbell Sarah Phelps March 1, 2015 5.95
With the parish council election imminent, tensions rise in Pagford.

Critical reception

The critical response to the opening episode was mostly positive. In a particularly praise-filled review for Digital Spy, Cameron McKewan described the series as having a "perfect cast with a biting script". He summarised: "It's a cracking first instalment for the three-part series with bountiful characters to take in, and the relationships not clearly defined from the outset (rewardingly so)"[14] In a review for The Guardian, Stuart Jeffries also gave a positive response, whilst describing the series as "The Archers meets Benefit Street"[15] Comparing the TV adaptation more positively than the novel itself, Gerard O'Donovan, in a review for The Telegraph, awarded the series opener 4 out of 5 stars. He optimistically summarised: "...the performances are uniformly good, the direction is inventive, and there’s an undeniable topicality and panache to this adaptation that convinces you that just around the corner something will pull it all together and make it succeed."[16] Ellen E Jones, writing for The Independent, took a similar approach with review title: "JK Rowling's story is a far better drama than it is a book"[17]
Elsewhere, however, reception to the series opening episode were less favourable. Writing a review for the Daily Mail, Jan Moir headed her review with: "Nasty nimby toffs and typical Tory-bashing from the Beeb" noting how "the Beeb was desperate to get this substandard work of working class oppression and parish council venality onto the small screen." She concluded her review with the question: "We are promised some redemption in this television adaptation, but where and when?"[18] In a riposte to Moir's review, Grace Dent of The Independent opined that "it was odd to read reports that the show was attacking the middle classes and glorifying 'the noble savage'. It was glaringly clear, to me at least, from Phelps’ script that while Michael Gambon’s character Howard Mollison was indeed a terrible snob, we could hardly disagree that the 'feral' kids wiping bogeys down his deli window were spoiling village ambience. These were difficult notions of 'village life' – the junkies, the domestic abusers, the shark-like property developers, the upwardly mobiles, [and] the downwardly spiralling". She summarised that "It must be quite exhausting to feel... lost in a righteous lather over how closet communists [at the BBC] are frittering away your 40p a day."[19]


  • "BBC And HBO Adapting JK Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ For TV; Casting Calls Begin". Page to Premiere. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
    1. Dent, Grace. "Ignore the BBC-bashing pillocks: The Casual Vacancy is as entertaining as it is realistic". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

    External links

  • "J.K. Rowling, HBO, BBC Team for 'Casual Vacancy' Miniseries". The Hollywood Reporter. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.

  • "J.K. Rowling's ‘The Casual Vacancy’ Miniseries Coming to HBO". The Wrap. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.

  • "Warner Bros. Announces Expanded Creative Partnership with J.K. Rowling". Business Wire. Retrieved 12 September 2013.

  • "Rowling's Casual Vacancy to become BBC TV drama series". BBC. 3 December 2012.

  • Munn, Patrick (January 28, 2015). "BBC One Sets Premiere Date For ‘The Casual Vacancy’". TV Wise. Retrieved January 28, 2015.

  • "Keeley Hawes to fill a Casual Vacancy in TV version of Rowling's novel for adults". Daily Mail. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.

  • "The Casual Vacancy (TV Mini-Series 2015)". IMDb.

  • "Cast confirmed for BBC One adaptation of JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy". BBC. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.

  • "Keeley Hawes stirs up trouble as a brazen redhead while filming JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy in England". Daily Mail. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.

  • "Rowling's Casual Vacancy to become BBC TV drama series". BBC. 3 December 2012.

  • "Warner Bros. Announces Expanded Creative Partnership with J.K. Rowling". Business Wire. Retrieved 12 September 2013.

  • "Carving out the music for The Casual Vacancy". BBC. Retrieved 25 February 2015.

  • K McEwan, Cameron. "The Casual Vacancy episode 1 recap: 'Perfect cast with a biting script'". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

  • Jeffires, Stuart. "The Casual Vacancy review: ‘The Archers meets Benefits Street’". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

  • O'Donovan, Gerard. "The Casual Vacancy, episode 1, review: 'undeniable panache'". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

  • E Jones, Ellen. "JK Rowling's story is a far better drama than it is a book". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

  • Moir, Jan. "Nasty nimby toffs and typical Tory-bashing from the Beeb: JAN MOIR reviews The Casual Vacancy". Daily Mail. DMG Media. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
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