In Depth

Can The Little Drummer Girl top The Night Manager?

BBC bosses hope latest John Le Carre adaptation will prove as popular as its hugely successful predecessor

New BBC drama The Little Drummer Girl will hit our small screens this weekend amid high expectations.

The six-part series stars Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon, and is directed by South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, the man behind internationally acclaimed thriller The Handmaiden.

The new show is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by John Le Carre, who penned the book that inspired the BBC’s smash hit The Night Manager. The 2016 series, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, was nominated for 36 major TV awards worldwide and won 11.

So is the BBC’s latest foray into Le Carre territory going to be more of the same? Here’s everything we know so far about The Little Drummer Girl.

What is it about?

A young actress, Charlie (Pugh), befriends an intriguing stranger while on holiday in Greece, but it soon becomes clear that his intentions are not romantic. 

“The man is Becker [Skarsgard], an Israeli intelligence officer, who entangles her in a complex and high-stakes plot that unfolds as she takes on the role of a lifetime in the ‘theatre of the real’,” says the BBC.

“Set in the late 1970s yet sharply contemporary, The Little Drummer Girl weaves a dynamic and exciting story of espionage and international intrigue; of love and betrayal.”

Will it be similar to The Night Manager?

According to The Daily Telegraph, not at all.

In an advance review, the newspaper notes that “the first thing to say about The Little Drummer Girl is that it isn’t The Night Manager part two”. Where that latter adaptation “was slickly contemporary... a post-modern riff on the James Bond school of international intrigue, zinging with action and layered with tension”, the new series is “a masterclass in slow burn”, the Telegraph says.

Le Carre does not expect The Little Drummer Girl to do as well as its predecessor, but insists he is fine with that. Speaking ahead of the premiere of the new series earlier this month at the BFI London Film Festival, the author - whose real name is David Cornwall - said: “I want it to be a different kind of success. We may not have such a vast audience but I think we will have a very thoughtful one, a very grateful one, because it’s a beautiful, slow, evolving story.

“With The Night Manager we all fell in love with Roper, the villain. Hugh Laurie enchanted us all, all you wanted to be was Hugh Laurie if you’re a man. If you’re this lady (played by Pugh) you’re not thinking, ‘I wish it were me’, you’re thinking, ‘Thank God it’s not me’.”

Both series are co-productions between the BBC and independent production company The Ink Factory, which is owned by Le Carre’s sons Stephen and Simon Cornwall. 

When is it on?

The Little Drummer Girl begins on Sunday 28 October at 9pm on BBC One.

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