Dickens In A Twist

This tweet, from the always excellent @russty_russ sparked a memory for me.

So I thought I’d delve into the newspaper archives and see if I could tell the story through some clippings. It all begins in Aberdeen, on the 6th April 1998.

Aberdeen Press and Journal – Monday 06 April 1998
Aberdeen Evening Express – Monday 06 April 1998

But the news spread as far as Dublin too.

Evening Herald (Dublin) – Monday 06 April 1998
Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 07 April 1998
The Stage – Thursday 09 April 1998

It’s fair to say there was a bit of a buzz about this new adaptation, fresh off the back of the huge success of the original Only Fools And Horses finale trilogy. The Mirror was so excited that it got its Dickens in a twist.

Daily Mirror – Thursday 09 April 1998
The Stage – Thursday 23 April 1998

By July, things were starting to move along, and we learn from The Stage that the serial was commissioned by none other than Paul Jackson.

The Stage – Thursday 02 July 1998

Come October, and some big casting news was announced.

The Stage – Thursday 08 October 1998

So, we’re on course for that Radio Times cover then …

The Stage – Thursday 01 July 1999

Sullivan quit the project completely after the BBC asked for a change in focus, favouring a more traditional costume drama over the tone of the scripts that had been written. Writing duties were taken over by Adrian Hodges.

Daily Record – Thursday 29 July 1999

John Sullivan was so disillusioned by it all that he moved across to ITV, and offered them a rival project, bringing David Jason along with him. But the BBC production continued.

Daily Mirror – Friday 06 August 1999

Undeterred, the ITV version continued too.

Evening Herald (Dublin) – Saturday 27 May 2000

David Reynolds, the controller of comedy drama at Yorkshire, said at the Rose d’Or television festival in Montreux yesterday that he was delighted to have secured Sullivan and Jason. “This is a big deal for us,” he said.
ITV bosses hope the new show will be a hit on the same scale as Jason’s previous successes in the risky “comedy drama” genre, The Darling Buds of May and A Bit of a Do. Both won critical acclaim and high ratings.
Jason would be perfect for the role of Mr Micawber, said Mr Reynolds. “There is no doubt that he will make it totally his own in the same way that he became Pop Larkin, Del Boy and Jack Frost.”

The Guardian, 6th May 2000

At ITV David Jason’s name is as good as gold. He guarantees ratings, brings in the gongs and crucially coins in the advertising revenue.
But today ITV bosses have been forced to admit he has temporarily lost his sheen as they axe Micawber, the drama series based on the character from Dickens’ classic, David Copperfield.
Insiders admit the man who brought us Pop Larkin, Del Boy Trotter and Inspector Frost is unlikely to return as Micawber.
ITV1 had high hopes of the drama, which reunited Only Fools and Horses star Jason with the long-running comedy’s creator, John Sullivan.
And before it was screened Jason declared: “I very much hope I can make him a household name. He’s a loveable rogue with a heart of gold.”
But the four-part costume drama averaged only 5.9 million viewers and a 28% audience share when it went out in late December and early January.
Although the figures would be passable for other actors, ITV bosses would rather use David Jason for known winners.
“Nobody has said it formally, but it didn’t play that well and noboby is expecting it to come back,” one ITV insider said.

The Guardian, 20th March 2002
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