Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Thanks to YouTube, I watched the first episode of 'Lost In Austen' today. That's not a mis-spelling, as it's not a geographical reference to the Texan city. Instead, it's about Jane Austen and the world she created in her books, specifically "Pride And Prejudice".

The wonderful Jemima Rooper, who as the ghost Thelma was the only good thing about 'Hex', stars in 'Lost In Austen' as Amanda Price who is obsessed with the book. After yet another disastrous evening with her dolt of a boyfriend, Amanda is visited by the heroine of "Pride And Prejudice", Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Elizabeth has entered Amanda's modern world via a portal in the bathroom, and she leads Amanda back into her world - only to abandon her there as she takes advantage of the "real world". After that, Amanda has to find her way back while at the same time she must keep the story that she knows so well continuing on the path it should be taking. But that's not so easy when Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are both more interested in her than the women they should be courting....
Of course, the "real world" of 'Lost In Austen' is Toobworld, Earth Prime-Time. And this may be the first example of a character from the TV Universe being transported to the Literary Universe. (I have yet to come up with a code name for this universe. We have Toobworld, the Tooniverse [dimension of TV cartoons], Skitlandia [dimension of TV sketch comedy], and the "Cineverse" [Craig Shaw Gardner's term for the B-movie universe].)

In Toobworld, we've seen characters from the Tooniverse cross over, like Daffy Duck ('The Drew Carey Show') and Superman (Amex commercials). 'Hi Honey, I'm Home' was about Toobworld's Toobworld, in which fictional characters from their TV shows (many of which were the same as ours) living among the "real people". There was a light beer commercial in which you could insert yourself into a badly dubbed martial arts movie just by slamming your beer bottle on top of the TV.

So 'Lost In Austen' follows that same idea, only about a Toobworld character inside a book. (I'm wondering if down the road, Amanda will find herself crossing paths with the characters from other novels by Jane Austen, so that it gets all blurry?)

It's not a new idea. Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp kind of started it with the stories about "The Incompleat Enchanter" in which their hero ended up in the worlds of Norse mythology, Spenser's "The Faerie Queene", "Orlando Furioso", and Coleridge's "Kubla Khan". (A second series of stories by deCamp with other collaborators after the death of Pratt sent the original characters into the worlds of "The Wizard Of Oz", Burrough's Barsoom books, "Don Quixote", and Shakespeare's "The Tempest".

Another book with a similar theme was Marvin L. Kaye's "The Incredible Umbrella", in which his hero ended up in a world that was a melange of Victorian literature like "Three Penny Opera", "The Pickwick Papers", and the Sherlock Holmes stories of Conan Doyle.

And it may not be a new idea within Toobworld, either. We could use this premise to incorporate more than one version of "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court", for instance. It would be the perfect splainin for those TV adaptations that use a different character to go back to Camelot who is also familiar with the original book by Mark Twain.

And we don't have to worry about making sure 'Lost In Austen' reconciles with the TV adaptation of 'Pride And Prejudice'. Because the world in which Amanda finds herself is based on her vision of what those characters and those locations should look like after reading the book as often as she did. This argument would also work for other variations like the "Connecticut Yankee" model.

'Lost In Austen' is an ITV production. That first episode could be taken down at any time by YouTube, and I don't know if I'll be able to see anymore episodes that way. (One of these days I'll have to become an official member of the bit torrent rebel alliance - not that I'll ever tell Big Brother when I do!) I'd love for BBC-America to pick up this show, and they could promote it for its sci-fi/fantasy aspects. The fact that it's from a rival network in the UK shouldn't be a hindrance, as they're also showing another ITV show, 'Primeval', over here.

As Jane Austen might have written, just sayin', is all......

Toby O'B

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