Why the BBC Drama “The Casual Vacancy” is good for the book

February 16, 2015.

The Casual Vacancy began tonight on BBC One, with the first of three episodes of the 2012 novel adaptation. The drama, written by Sarah Phelps, explores the life in the village of Pagford, where the death of a parish Councillor triggers an inner war between their people.

This is the first adaptation of a J.K. Rowling’s book into the screen that is not part of the Harry Potter world – the first time that the adapted story is not a fantastic one. While the Harry Potter adaptations for the big screen make us able to watch something that lives only inside our mind (and that may be its biggest attractiveness), The Casual Vacancy for the BBC One is about the story, its characters and the complexity of relationships in a quiet town of the West Country. With no CGI, no special effects, its only appeal is the plot itself. And that is more than enough.

With the freedom granted by J.K. Rowling herself, Sarah Phelps expands the history of Pagford, adding and changing some facts here and there, even giving more minutes of life to our hero, Barry Fairbrother. But if the scenery, the direction, the performances and even the music gives the story the level of quality it deserves, it is not only because the people involved in the adaptation did it phenomenally, but also because the book had the potential to inspire such TV drama.

If we were delighted with sharp dialogues, superb acting (a surprise from the younger) and beautiful shots of the English countryside it was because The Casual Vacancy had this gem hidden inside, despite the reviews it received around its publication time. The Casual Vacancy is on TV as raw as it can be – loyal to its root. The true reflection of the book is on the screen, so the quality of both go hand in hand.

If you enjoyed the book, there is no doubt you have to watch it. If you did not, give it a try to the TV series – it will help you to rediscover the secrets of Pagford, and will encourage you to re-read it and feel immersed into this little but matted town.

Directed by Jonny Campbell, The Casual Vacancy cast has the names of Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes, Rufus Jones and Rory Kinnear, among others. The second episode airs on February 22nd, and the finale on March 1st.

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