Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tom Brown’s School Days

(This post is part of a series on the 14 Top TV Dramas You’ve Never Seen)

We continue our countdown of The Top TV Dramas You’ve Never Seen with Number 12, Tom Brown’s School Days. There have been many adaptations of Thomas Hughes’ classic novel, but the one I’m referring to is the five-episode miniseries first broadcast in the U.S. on PBS' Masterpiece Theater in 1973. Set in the Victorian era, young Tom Brown suffers the trials and traumas of an English boarding school, proving bullying is not a recent phenomenon. Adding to Tom's troubles, he offended a wealthy and corrupt man whose son attends the same school. The upperclassman resolves to make Tom's life a living hell and break his spirit. The hardships of the era (including canings of schoolboys) paint a vivid social critique of Victorian England, yet hope appears in the guise of the new headmaster, Dr. Arnold, a progressive reformer.

A true coming of age story, this version (shown two years earlier in the U.K.) was more faithful to the novel than most. The acting leaves a bit to be desired (Anthony Murphy strikes me as a modern day Freddie Bartholomew) and at times veers toward melodrama, but the story is riveting and entertaining historical fiction.

Below, you'll find links to the show's listings at the Internet Movie Database, a clip from the series hosted on YouTube, and a link to purchase the DVDs on Amazon. The clip I've chosen is from the second episode. Tom has just arrived at Rugby, and we meet his soon-to-be best friend Ned East and the archetypal bully Flashman. Since school bullying is a major issue these days, I think Tom Brown's School Days, both the novel and this miniseries, would resonate with Young Adult readers and viewers.

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