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The BBC's Bleak House and Rome have drawn huge audiences. But, like most attempts to put the classics on television, they don't work. Television is best at the new

By David Herman   December 2005

The BBC is ending 2005 on a roll: Bleak House, Rome and four plays which “rediscover Shakespeare through modern interpretations.” This is what they call “event television.”

These three projects are hugely ambitious. On paper, they are exactly what the BBC should be for. It is impossible to imagine ITV or Channel 4 mounting anything comparable. The BBC has a new spring in its step, a new appetite for thinking big. Having ditched Lorraine Hennessey, Greg Dyke and Jane Root, it looks smarter and more interesting. It has also seen off its terrestrial rivals. According to Barb’s viewing figures for…

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