In a startling break from its usual cycle of Dickens-Austen-Brontë adaptations, BBC One has announced plans to translate J.K. Rowling’s post-Potter bestseller The Casual Vacancy to the small screen. BBC One Controller Danny Cohen commissioned the project following discussions with Rowling’s agent-slash-husband Neil Blair, and the finished product is expected to air some time in 2014. Given the combined global grosses of the Harry Potter films, the only real surprise here should be that it’s going to TV (and non-commercial TV at that) and isn’t the first part of a lucrative cinematic series, perhaps charting small town elections all over England, with official tie-in ballot papers for sale in stationers across the land.
Naturally, all concerned parties are thrilled. No, seriously, all three sources quoted on the commission – Rowling, Cohen and Controller of BBC Drama Ben Stephenson – used the words ‘thrilled’ or ‘thrilling’ in their reactions. They’re really thrilled, you guys.
Thrilled Rowling says: ‘I’m thrilled that the BBC has commissioned The Casual Vacancy. I always felt that, if it were to be adapted, this novel was best suited to television and I think the BBC is the perfect home.’ So really, it’s just as well it wasn’t picked up by ITV, otherwise this could have been really awkward and not quite as thrilling for all concerned.
Cohen’s thrill, meanwhile, comes from being able to ‘[bring] the work of J.K. Rowling to BBC One audiences. J.K. Rowling’s story-telling is of course peerless in its popularity, and I am looking forward to collaborating with her. This project highlights the ambition and scale of BBC One Drama, as well as the ability of modern television to attract the world’s biggest talent and most exciting creative ideas.’ Exciting creative ideas like adapting one of the most widely-read books to be aimed at an adult audience of the past five years. Real cutting edge stuff, y’know? Just thrilling.
As yet there is no word on any of the thrilling creative team behind the adaptation, or whether or not they’ll be as hidebound to the source material as the makers of the Harry Potter films were (fans of The Casual Vacancy are presumably less rabid in their devotion to the preservation of every tiny detail, given that they’re not young children). Reports neither confirm nor deny that Chris Columbus is just sitting by his phone, waiting for it to ring, occasionally checking the battery, humming tunes from Rent to himself and doodling the word ‘thrilled’ over and over again.