January 20, 2014

A bucolic female James Bond

That's what Kate calls the character of Anne Shirley in Kevin Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story.

The CBC production of Anne of Green Gables (1985) follows the novel pretty closely. But for Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (sometimes titled Anne of Avonlea) two years later, Sullivan combined material from the next three books (mostly Anne of Avonlea and Anne of Windy Poplars).

I thought it worked rather well (and dispensed with most of Anne of the Island, that I didn't much like).

The compressed timeline required significant changes. In Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne has graduated from college and is hired as the principal of Summerside High School. But Sullivan did a good job weaving the themes together and paying off--even improving upon--the major plot points.

For Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000), Sullivan tried to do the same thing with the rest of the Anne series. The problem is, Anne's House of Dreams is a domestic melodrama and by Anne of Ingleside she has a passel of kids.

So instead he turned to the last three books in the series. Except the last three books are specifically about Anne's children.

I suspect as well that Megan Follows was already attached to the project. So Sullivan ended up with a mixed bag of story ideas written for an ensemble of younger characters, now played by a single person whose own character was by then completely out of sync with the original timeline.

The result, Kate points out, is a narrative mess, a scatterbrained script that jumps from one story idea to the next without paying off any of them, in the process turning Anne into

a sort of clean-living femme fatale. This week, she could end up with a German fighter pilot! Next week: the pool boy! A bucolic female James Bond.

Well, at least that means my idea hasn't been tried yet! There is more than enough good material in books four, five and six (Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside) to create a contemporary television series. Hey, everybody's doing it with Sherlock Holmes.

I'm thinking of a lighthearted family melodrama about a GP and his wife returning to Prince Edward Island, where he sets up a family practice and she's an elementary school principal. Like the quirky Hampshire episodes in As Time Goes By, only featuring PEI as a major supporting character.

I can already imagine her kids suffering the twin tragedies of 1) ending up in a tourist trap in the middle of freaking nowhere (after living in, say, Toronto); 2) our mom's the principal! Aargh! And if you wanted to break a little fourth wall, 3) tourists can't stop observing that Anne look like, well, Anne.

Considering how popular Anne of Green Gables is in Japan, they could probably sign up NHK and the PEI Tourist Board as co-producers from the start.

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# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
1/20/2014 3:19 PM   
I think this is a great idea! Especially if it was written by writers familiar with the books and the whole world of Anne. Montgomery's material does seem to provide plenty of small-anecdotes-that-can-easily-be-fleshed-into-longer-ones (in fact, I remembered--after writing my post--that I have read some of Montgomery's ghost/supernatural short stories, which are quick and engaging; the woman knew how to write "something happened" stuff).

It also wouldn't be difficult--as with Elementary--to include constant name and place references to the original material.

And keeping it contemporary would be both clever and cheaper. There was a historical series, right after Sullivan's first movies came out, that seemed to capture the whole zeitgeist of time and place although I don't know if any of the material was drawn directly from Montgomery: Avonlea. It was pretty good! Though aimed at a younger audience. But it shows that a series is possible.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
1/22/2014 4:00 AM   
Ah, Anne of the Green Gables. Planning to watch the anime after I finished Little Princess Sara.