Do you hear the people sing? Not in this starry Masterpiece adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, set amid the social unrest of post-Napoleonic France.
“I felt the book needed rescuing from the musical,” says screenwriter-exec producer Andrew Davies. Fans can now luxuriate in six hours of drama, romance, revolution and an obsessed lawman’s game of cat and mouse with the ex-con he still sees as a sinner.
At the series’ heart is a decades-long quest by police inspector Javert (David Oyelowo) to recapture on-the-lam Jean Valjean (Dominic West). The ex-prisoner’s “almost biblical” redemption takes him from “bitter, abused enemy of society” to “something close to saint,” Davies says.
Valjean’s journey intersects with that of naive Fantine (Lily Collins, below, with Johnny Flynn), who ends up pregnant and alone. “The reality hits home that you can fall right to the bottom,” Davies says. “After a life of happiness, you’re on the breadline and desperate.”
Les Misérables, Series Premiere, Sunday, April 14, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)