I was despatched to the luxury five-star Soho Hotel to review the BBC’s latest take on Nicholas Nickleby. Once I’d filled my boots with enough almond slices and pain au chocolat to keep me going until lunch, I took my seat in the hotel’s screening room with assembled media folk.
The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby reimagines Charles Dickens’ novel in a 21st century setting, reflecting some of the issues facing modern Britain. Swapping its boarding school setting for a care home, the show highlights the problems faced by the elderly in homes. The show will air on BBC Daytime, formerly home to the excellent Shakespeare Retold series. The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby will mark a welcome change from endless episodes of Cash in the Attic and Bargain Hunt.
The death of Nicholas Nickleby Snr. leaves the Nickleby family penniless. Nick, played by Andrew Simpson, goes to London with his mother and sister to visit his estranged wealthy uncle Ralph in search of financial help. Initially dismissive of the clan’s woes, slimy Ralph gives Nick a job at one of his care homes.
The maltreatment of the elderly as big businesses pursue wealth is suitably Dickensian in theme and relevant in the current climate. In this first episode, Nick befriends Mrs Smike, a confused old lady at the home, and rescues her from the clutches of the evil care home supervisor Wackford Squeers. The characters are a tad one dimensional, particularly the villains, who appear to have no redeeming features whatsoever, and the plot is hardly the most demanding.
The acting is strong, however, and this mini-series will provide daytime viewers (pensioners, students and the unemployed) with enough entertainment to get them through to Deal or No Deal. BBC Daytime’s been in a terminal decline since Neighbours leapt over to Five. Nick Nickleby should put a stop to that, even if it is only on for a week.
It’s refreshing that despite ongoing across-the-board cuts (which just this week have seen broadcasting royalty Danny Baker axed from BBC London), the Beeb is willing to invest in new drama. Long may it continue.
The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby airs on BBC One from Monday 5th November to Friday 9th November at 2.15pm.