A series of six separate dramas reworking Geoffrey Chauncer’s medieval Canterbury Tales into a modern setting. the uniformly excellent cast included the likes of Keeley Hawes, John Simm, James Nesbitt, Dennis Waterman, Bill Paterson and Andrew Lincoln.
When Geoffrey Chaucer created the Canterbury Tales he was exploring eternal human themes that have as much relevance today as they did in the 14th century. So why not take six of his best tales and adapt them for the small screen? the collection of contemporary yarns that emerged from the experiment is British television drama at its best. If Chaucer were alive today, he’d be writing telly scripts like this.
Because each story is self-contained, actors did not have to commit to long shooting schedules in order to be part of canterbury tales. this meant the producers were able to attract top performers to the series. Julie Walters, James Nesbitt, Om Puri, John Simm, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Nicholls, Dennis Waterman, Keeley Hawes, Billie Piper, Indira Varma, Andrew Lincoln and Jonny Lee Miller head the talented cast. Tony Marchant (Holding On, Crime And Punishment) and Sally Wainwright (At Home With The Braithwaites) were among the six writers engaged to transform Chaucer’s original stories into compelling TV.
The plays range in style from a comedy drama Wife of Bath, featuring Julie Walters in a BAFTA award-winning performance, to The Pardoner’s Tale, a truly dark fable of death and greed starring Jonny Lee Miller. The producers pulled off some inspired casting: how about Dennis Waterman as an aging publican and Billie Piper as his flirty, karaoke-mad wife in The Miller’s Tale. The makers looked for settings that would stretch Chaucer’s original vision to the limit but retain the moral thrust. So, The Sea Captain’s Tale becomes a film noir set in Gravesend’s Asian community and The Knight’s Tale is moved from Athens to a British prison.
Several minor roles in Canterbury Tales were cast after open auditions. Sarah Kendall, a civil servant and amateur actress, found herself playing a nurse opposite Julie Walters in The Wife of Bath. Psychology student Stephen Tallett was a security guard in The Knight’s Tale, rubbing shoulders with John Simm, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keeley Hawes.
Much of Geoffrey Chaucer’s life remains obscure but, from what we do know, he was quite a lad. He was born between 1340 and 1344 in London, the son of a wine merchant. By his mid-teens he was already fighting in France for the English army. He was captured by the French but Edward III paid a ransom to have him freed in 1360. Chaucer continued in the King’s service, travelling in Spain and Italy. By 1374, he had become a customs official, living in Aldgate. Later, he moved to Kent. He began The Canterbury Tales in the 1380s but he was still busy in public service and the work wasn’t completely finished when he died in 1400. By then it was 17,000 lines long, the first major literary work to be written in English.
Chaucer’s masterpiece centres on a group of pilgrims, thrown together as they travel from London to Canterbury. They come from all walks of life and tell each other tales to pass the time on the road. It’s a bit like a reality TV show, in fact, only funnier. The locations for the six tales are set along the pilgrim’s route, starting at Southwark and taking in Gravesend, Rochester and Chatham on the way to Canterbury.
In 1975 Alan Plater also gave us an updated version, Trinity Tales focused on a group of people going to an important Football Match. An expansive 14 part traditional telling of the stories had also been produced by the BBC in 1969.
UK / BBC One / 6×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 11 September – 16 October 2003
Stories: Geoffrey Chaucer / Script Editor: Tim Baker / Theme Music: Murray Gold / Executive Producers: Franc Roddam, Laura Mackie And Sally Haynes / Producer: Kate Bartlett
1. The Miller’s Tale (11 Sep 03)
2. The Wife Of Bath (18 Sep 03)
3. The Knight’s Tale (25 Sep 03)
4. The Sea Captain’s Tale (2 Oct 03)
5. The Pardoner’s Tale (9 Oct 03)
6. The Man Of Law’s Tale (16 Oct 03)
Clochemerle (BBC-2 1972, Cyril Cusack, Roy Dotrice)
Period sitcom, based on a novel by Gabriel Chevallier that was adapted by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, that saw the French villagers of Clochemerle kick up a fuss over plans to install a new toilet.
CYRIL CUSACK as Major Piechut
ROY DOTRICE as Ponosse
KENNETH GRIFFITH as Ernest Tafardel
WENDY HILLER as Justine Putet
HUGH GRIFFITH as Alexandre Bourdillat
BERNARD BRESSLAW as Nicholas the Beadle
MADELINE SMITH as Hortase Girodet
GEORGINA MOON as Rose Biraque
PETER USTINOV as Narrator
Writers: Ray Galton, Alan Simpson
Novel: Gabriel Chevallier
Producer: Michael Mills
Network and Production Companies: BBC Two – Bavaria
Duration: 9×30 minute episodes
Aired From: 18 February – 14 April 1972 Fridays at 10.05pm
Clairvoyant, The (BBC-2 1986, Roy Kinnear, Sandra Dickinson)
In Roy Clarke penned sitcom The Clairvoyant used car salesman Arnold Bristow is knocked down in a car accident and suddenly finds himself with psychic powers – or so he believes. There was a pilot broadcast 27 Nov 1984.
ROY KINNEAR as Arnold Bristow
SANDRA DICKINSON as Lily
HUGH LLOYD as Burma
SHAUN CURRY as Newton
GLYNIS BROOKS as Dawn
CARMEL CRYAN as Carmen
Writer: Roy Clarke
Producer and Director: Alan J.W. Bell
Network and Production Companies: BBC-2
Duration: 6×30 minute episodes
Aired From: Pilot – 27 November 1984 and Series – 15 May – 19 June 1986
Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)
Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017
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