I have vivid memories of the first time I saw Brideshead Revisited --the sweeping mini-series, not the recently miscast abridged version. I am told that when it first in Washington, D. C., dinner reservations were easy to come by on the night Brideshead was shown as EVERYONE was home watching it.
WETA, the PBS station in DC loved it so much that it seemed every time someone need change for the parking meter, they would launch a fundraiser with Brideshead Revisited. But nothing beats that first experience. I was smitten. Pasty-faced English boys reading poetry and drinking champagne! It was divine. In fact, as memory served me, Brideshead Revisited was the perfect embodiment of Evelyn Waugh's novel. As I remember it, there were hours and hours of those pasty-faced boys and their alcohol.
So I can't tell you how happy I was when I received the 25th Anniversary re-mastered DVD of Brideshead. I was so excited that it took me months to actually watch it. I wanted just the right time to allow for the full 11 hours of uninterrupted viewing. Finally that weekend came to fruition. Just as had remembered there were hours of lovely boys drinking to excess. Actually there were about 2 1/2 hours of what I had remembered. And there were nearly nine hours of abject tediousness.
Needless to say I was crushed. How could I have remembered it so poorly? Why did Evelyn Waugh ever want to become a Catholic after writing Lady Marchmain? Was my love of Jeremy Irons clouded by my first sight of him? Should I even bother to watch the Medici's?
I turned to the great Nancy Mitford for clarification on these matters. Mitford had asked Waugh how he could behave so abominably and yet still consider himself a practicing Catholic to which Waugh replied, "You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being."
Mitford and Waugh carried on a robust correspondence which has thankfully been published for all to read. While Mitford believed Brideshead Revisited to be a classic, she found the character of Charles Ryder a bit "dim." Waugh wrote, “Yes, I can see how you think Charles is dim, but then he’s telling the story.” Still, this minor exchange was a revelation to me. "Dim" seems to be the perfect word for Charles Ryder and the more I watched my DVD's the more I wanted to smack him! It is inconceivable that anyone would have fallen for Ryder and allowed him to be a part of their lives.
I was reminded of an old Fraiser re-run. (Yes, I read AND watch television.) The Crane Brothers find that their favorite actor (the one who came to their school and preformed a Shakespearean tribute and changed their lives) was now a "space alien" in a popular television show. They rent a theater to produce a big stage comeback, re-creating his Shakespeare. And then they see it and he is AWFUL.
Memory is a terrible thing to waste! I have given up watching Brideshead and have concentrated on more extensive reading. More later....