I watched episode 1 of 5 of The Brontës of Haworth last night, courtesy of Netflix.
It strikes me as a dramatization of the primary episodes and anecdotes that constitute the Brontë myth. For example, the series opens with Patrick Bronte purchasing the box of tin soldiers for Brandon, and then we are introduced to the children as they each choose their favorites and begin to play with them. The voice-over explains the world of the children--their intense creativity and precocious following of the politics of the day. We are shown that Charlotte, thought smaller than her younger siblings, is, as Patrick informs us when the children are caught out on the moors in a thunderstorm, "quite a little woman" and capable of looking after the others. We also get to witness Patrick waking up the children by firing his pistol into the graveyard that is next to the parsonage.
The only part where Christopher Fry, who wrote the screenplay, might have let his imagination fill in the gaps of standard Bronte bio, is where Branwell is in the church and the plaque commemorating the death of his mother and older sisters Maria and Elizabeth inspires a flashback to when his Aunt Branwell forced him to look at Maria in her coffin. He, in flashback, rants about his distress that he will never be good enough to go to heaven and see her again after he dies. The implication being that this episode is the seed of his later self-destruction.
I actually quite liked the children actors who portrayed Charlotte, Brandon, Emily, and Anne. The production isn't slick, modern, or particularly insightful, at least so far, but it is solid (those Yorkshire accents are real!). It sort of feels like an encyclopedia entry on the Brontes come to life.
In reading the IMDB description, it appears that Barbara Leigh-Hunt will be playing my beloved Elizabeth Gaskell, which will be a real treat. I've enjoyed her performances in the mighty 1995 Pride and Prejudice as Lady Catherine, the awesome 1999 Wives and Daughters as Lady Cumnor with a lisp, and, of course, she was the Registrar who married Jean and Lionel in As Time Goes By. I don't believe I've ever seen her as a young woman, however, so this should be interesting.
Here's a link to my post on episode 2, and the post on episode 3.