Bleak House

Watch Bleak House

  • 1985
  • 1 Season
  • 7.6  (400)

Bleak House is a British television series adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel of the same name. The series unfolds in 20 half-hour episodes and premiered on BBC One in 1985. Produced by Barry Letts, it stars Diana Rigg, Peter Vaughan, and Philip Franks in the lead roles. The show features beautiful period settings and costumes, which create an ambience that pays tribute to the era of Charles Dickens and his themes.

The storyline of Bleak House revolves around the peaceful and prosperous existence of the Jarndyce family, which is disturbed by a long-standing legal case, the result of which is contested from all sides. The family is involved in a bitter lawsuit that has been dragging on for many years, dubbed Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which is being contested in the Court of Chancery. The legal case had reached a stage where it has become an idle and expensive pursuit, which has sucked the life and energy out of many of the main characters. However, the case rears its ugly head once again, bringing more drama, intrigue, and heartbreak to the already frayed family relationships.

The series opens with the story of Esther Summerson, an orphaned child whose identity is shrouded in secrecy. She is taken in by a distant cousin, John Jarndyce, who is also caught up in the legal case. Esther is welcomed by a cast of characters that include Mrs. Jellyby, who neglects her own children while doing philanthropic work in Africa, and Mr. Turveydrop, an etiquette instructor who is extremely pompous and overbearing. As Esther grows comfortable in her new home, she becomes an essential part of the Jarndyce's home life, taking on the witty and intelligent personality that is expected of a Dickensian heroine.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit that has been draining the Jarndyce family's emotions and resources seems to be reaching a sudden climax, as more and more characters become involved in the proceedings. The most influential of these are the unscrupulous lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn, who is determined to keep the case going at all costs, and the mysterious lady Honoria Dedlock, whose secret past threatens to derail the case altogether. Throughout the series, there are several subplots that complicate the story further, adding a considerable amount of excitement and tension to the already intricate plot.

The success of the show can be attributed to the remarkable performances of the entire cast. Diana Rigg, in particular, is outstanding in her role as Lady Dedlock, displaying just the right balance of poise, dignity, and quiet desperation. Her subtle facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language convey more than words ever could, illuminating the inner turmoil of a woman whose comfortable life is beginning to crumble under the unbearable weight of secrets and lies. Peter Vaughan, who portrays John Jarndyce, is also very impressive, effortlessly blending the character's kindness, wisdom, and sorrow. Philip Franks, too, does a great job as the shy and secretive Allan Woodcourt.

The overall production values of the series are stunning, with the set designers and costume makers ensuring that every detail is accurate and visually appealing. The show's lighting is another feature to applaud, with the team employing an array of styles ranging from dark and moody to bright and vibrant, depending on the mood of the scene.

In conclusion, Bleak House is a timeless classic that has been perfectly brought to life on the small screen. The series delves into the dark world of legal proceedings, greed and secrets, pitting its characters against each other in a struggle for survival. However, it also manages to maintain a sense of dignity and hope throughout, thanks to the warmth and strength of its main characters. The production, writing, and performances all come together seamlessly, making it a must-watch for any fan of period dramas, Dickensian works, or even those who are new to this kind of storytelling.

Bleak House is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (8 episodes). The series first aired on April 10, 1985.

Bleak House
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Episode 8
8. Episode 8
May 29, 1985
The celebrated BBC series continues as Richard, who is now married to Ada, continues his legal complaint against Jarndyce.
Episode 7
7. Episode 7
May 22, 1985
Esther has managed to recover from smallpox. Lady Dedlock reveals to Esther that she is her mother. Tulkinghorn is found to have been murdered.
Episode 6
6. Episode 6
May 15, 1985
As the dramatic BBC series continues, Esther has fallen ill with smallpox. Meanwhile, Smallweed has inherited Krook's property.
Episode 5
5. Episode 5
May 8, 1985
Jo is questioned about the woman Tulkinghorn has been showing around London. George is pressured about handwritten documents from Captain Hawdon.
Episode 4
4. Episode 4
May 1, 1985
Jo, a young crossing sweeper, shows Lady Dedlock the grounds of the late Captain Hawdon. Jarndyce and Richard argue over Richard's engagement to Ada.
Episode 3
3. Episode 3
April 24, 1985
Lady Dedlock ceases her court case. Meanwhile, Esther turns down an offer of marriage while Miss Flite collapses after a hearing in court.
Episode 2
2. Episode 2
April 17, 1985
The dramatic adaptation of the Charles Dicken novel continues as Esther is entrusted with running the Bleak estate.
Episode 1
1. Episode 1
April 10, 1985
Orphan Esther Summerson is sent to London, where she will meet the Wards of Court in Jarndyce, and meet her guardian for the first time.
Where to Watch Bleak House
Bleak House is available for streaming on the BBC One website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Bleak House on demand at Vudu.
  • Premiere Date
    April 10, 1985
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (400)