In Review

The Casual Vacancy - BBC series changes Rowling book

J.K. Rowling TV mini-series features rape, drug abuse and racism, but it's not as grim as the book

A new television mini-series based on J.K. Rowling's best-selling novel, The Casual Vacancy, will screen on BBC One this Sunday night. The Casual Vacancy, published in 2012, was Rowling's first adult novel following her phenomenally successful Harry Potter children's book series.

It sold well but received mixed reviews when it was released, with one Telegraph writer calling it “so howlingly bleak that it makes Thomas Hardy look like PG Wodehouse”.The story was also a little too dark for the BBC, and producers at the broadcaster have reportedly taken some liberties with the narrative. So what can viewers expect?

The Daily Mail reports that programme makers decided Rowling's story was 'grim' for the small screen - so they rewrote the ending for Sunday night audiences. But the three-part drama, starring Sir Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes and Rory Kinnear, still involves scenes of rape, drug abuse and racism.

Screenwriter Sarah Phelps said: “It’s still heartbreaking, but I had to find some kind of redemptive moment at the end, that sense that after the tragedy, someone gets to stand with a slightly straighter back.”

But changes to the storyline have not been limited to the ending, says the Mail. Questions have been raised over other edits to the plot, which some have suggested were made in order "to ramp up left-wing issues weeks before the General Election". The drama does not mention any political parties but critics say the battle over Sweetlove House is "a thinly disguised attack on the Government's welfare cuts" in the lead up to the May election.

Politics aside, episode one starts gently, says Kasia Delgado also in the Radio Times, with a camera swooping over the English countryside, "but soon the colossal cracks begin to show and things get very dark indeed".

Delgado describes the show as: "Beautifully shot, brilliantly acted and swarming with vivid characters."

Viewers can make up their own mind when the series airs, BBC One, Sunday 9pm.

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