The Larkins, the ITV remake of the iconic 90s show, dropped an estimated 2.2m viewers between E1 and E2. Opening with just over 6.6m viewers for episode one it fell to 4.4m for episode two however, that was still above the time slot average of 3.3m.
The big question mark, dangling like the sword of Damocles, over ITV’s The Larkins is – why?
Why remake a near perfick (sorry, had to be done) period show? Well as Executive producer Ben Farrell put it, “The way I look at it is we’re not short of Dickens adaptions, would people say Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol has been adapted too many times? I think there are always new takes on those stories depending on the age we’re living in. The fact the original novels were adapted for television over 30 years ago is no reason not to reinterpret them for a modern audience. We’re not re-making a television series, we’re adapting a set of novels.”
In essence that’s fine but it would be nonsense to remake Dad’s Army (as the film proved) and include current language, thinking and PC balance.
Therein lies part of the problem with The Larkins, the adaptation includes elements that are historically inaccurate for a quiet Kent village in 1958. Some language, casting and incidents have been included to reflect today’s attitudes. By all means adapt the H E Bates novels: by all means “reinterpret them for a modern audience” but why rewrite history for the sake of conforming to current thinking even though that thinking is right?
As Anita Singh, Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Telegraph said in her review, “Has there ever been such a racially diverse utopia as this tiny village in Kent? An Indian brigadier and headteacher, an Asian postman, a black shopkeeper, house buyer and man from the tax office – at points I thought everyone was going to break into song in the street and reveal this to be a Coca-Cola advert.
It can’t be colour-blind casting because all of the Larkins are white. Instead, we’re asked to believe that the locals don’t bat an eyelid at an Indian woman running a village school in 1958, when Britain didn’t get its first black headteacher until 1969.
There’s room for a little bit of #MeToo training too. “If you really like a girl, how do you approach her?” Ma asks her adolescent son. “Without scaring or embarrassing her,” he replies. Was that in the original HE Bates novel?”
Leaving aside the unnecessary PC inclusions, Simon Nye’s script and the casting leave a lot to be desired. It’s impossible not to make comparisons with the 1990 series. In the H E Bates novels, Mariette is 17 years old and in the original TV version Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played the part, was around 21 years old. In this reboot Sabrina Bartlett plays Mariette but, whilst she is an accomplished actress, at 30 years of age she looks a little too mature to play a 17 year old (sorry but that’s a fact). If the ‘new interpretation’ is that she is older then the age difference between her and the other Larkin children is too great. Joanna Scanlan, as Ma Larkin, is almost indistinguishable from Pam Ferris but Bradley Walsh’s interpretation of Pa Larkin leans more on Max Millar. As Paul Whitehouse might say, he’s “little bit weerrrr, a little bit weeeeeey, a little bit dodgy!’.
The Larkins is typical Sunday evening viewing but, if the current loss of viewers is a continuing trend, it is proving to be anything but perfick.