Desperate Romantics (BBC-2 2009 with Aidan Turner and Rafe Spall)


UK / BBC-2 / 6×60 minute episodes / Broadcast Tuesday 21 July – 25 August 2009

Writer: Peter Bowker / Producer: Ben Evans

Period drama serial Desperate Romantics follows the lives of three young men, John Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt who set out to change the face of English art forever. In the mid 19th century the trio are determined to shake up the staid Victorian “art scene”, calling themselves the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, the men hope to challenge the mannerist movement (which followed on from the Raphaelite) which was then in vogue.

Fred Walters ingratiates himself with the trio by finding the model Lizzie Siddal who quickly makes an impression on all three men (as well as Walters). As their reputation grows they are taken under the wing of the highly influential art critic John Ruskin.

Written by Peter Bowker in fine style, DR is a great series, focusing heavily on the jealousy and lust (lots of lust in fact as well as the poverty and hunger) that guided the trio to greatness. The casting is first rate too – especially the brilliant Tom Hollander as Ruskin.

When shown in Australia (March 2010) and other territories the episodes were rebranded as 3×120 minutes.

AIDAN TURNER as Dante Gabriel Rosetti
RAFE SPALL as William Holman Hunt
SAMUEL BARNETT as John Millais
SAM CRANE as Fred Walters
TOM HOLLANDER as John Ruskin
AMY MANSON as Lizzie Siddal
ZOE TAPPER as Effie Ruskin
POLLY KEMP as Mrs Siddal
JENNIE JACQUES as Annie Miller
GEORGIE GLEN as Mrs Ruskin