Gloomy French genius Victor Hugo’s grand masterpiece isn’t called Les Happychaps for a good reason.Les Miserables (BBC1) opened with an aerial shot of the carnage after the Battle of Waterloo, as ravens pecked the flesh of corpses and the thief Thenardier (Adeel Akhtar) dodged about stealing purses and gold teeth.Akhtar played it for laughs – and for the next hour, that blood-soaked battlefield was about as light-hearted as things got.
The classic novel, set in France 200 years ago, is sprawling in scope and bleak in outlook.
The characters are beaten, flogged, crushed by rockfalls, shot, ridden with diseases, betrayed, cheated, starved, deceived, hounded, robbed and deprived of everything they love.
No spoilers, but Les Mis doesn’t have an upbeat ending.
Yet for 30 years the stage version has been a global feelgood success – one that has wonderful music and lyrical moments to make the heart soar.
The challenge for the Beeb is to give us an incentive to watch this despairing six-part non-musical version, starring Dominic West as the ex-convict Jean Valjean.
David Oyelowo plays Valjean’s nemesis, Javert, who becomes obsessed with the jailbird after seeing him drop his trousers.
There’s nothing like a homoerotic subtext for saucing up a 19th century novel – and Andrew Davies, who adapted the book for TV, has plenty of form when it comes to injecting sex into the texts [ . . . ]