It’s just a couple episodes in, but the PBS adaption of Around the World in 80 Days (2022) starring David Tennant has potential. Having read the book, seen the 1956 film, and watched several theater versions, I have opinions about the material, and clearly this latest TV adaptation is not strictly faithful to Jules Verne. That has good and bad points, as always.
I do like that this eight-episode series gives a lot more time to tell the story, and this far in, I can tell that they’re using the time to flesh out the characters’ backgrounds and motivations, something that’s sorely lacking in the book. The original Phileas Fogg is almost of a caricature of an 19th-century upper-class Englishman — he is stiff, reserved, methodical, over-confident, and believes the English way is the best and most correct way of doing anything. He’s colonialism personified when he tours the world, seeing local cultures as exotic and beneath him and his English teatime. That said, he’s can be a decently moral person and treats individuals with respect. He manages to inspire trust and loyalty in his new valet Passepartout and love in the Indian princess Aouda. Most adaptions focus on Fogg to exclusion of the other characters, something this TV version remedies. Tennant’s Fogg is not the one in the book though — he’s tortured by something in the past and tends to be anxious and nervous. Hard to tell how that will play out over the series.
Finally, Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma) is not just a useful Frenchman, ready to perform any service Fogg should require. I like that he has a complicated life before meeting Fogg, plus he gives his employer a bit of attitude. The character is just so one-note in the book and other versions. I enjoy any scene with Passepartout and want to see more.
The more controversial addition here is probably the creation of a new character Abigail Fix Fortescue (Leonie Benesch), a reporter who follows Fogg and becomes part of his journey around the world. Her surname is a reference to the Detective Fix who starts following Fogg halfway through the trip, although he’s never on Fogg’s side or part of the journey. Abigail is … not great IMO. The dialog she’s given tends to be too cliche “modern liberated woman” talk that doesn’t fit in with the period. That said, other characters sometimes point out that what she says is ridiculous, so it’s not entirely like she gets away with anachronistic feminism.
As for the costumes? Well, there’s not a lot to write home, or a blog post, about! Abigail announces that the year is 1872, but she’s no fashion plate, and her clothes are a pared-down version of the period aesthetic. Fogg and Passepartout wear proper suits (Fogg even brings formalwear for dinner), but nothing flashy or particularly noteworthy. You can spot some bustle gowns in city crowd scenes.
Are you watching Around the World in 80 Days? What do you think so far?
So far, so good; Tennant has the ability to get the most out of whatever he plays. Passepartout is first-rate, although I have a particular liking for Jackie Chan’s version. The reference to the Paris Commune would suggest the writers have a better sense of history than some.
Except that the Commune was all over and done by 1872.
Doesn’t that grey gown look awfully 18thc. w/ the exception of the cuffs on the sleeves?
1870s had a brief 18th century revival with low square neckline (in fact I think they used the same TV405 pattern).
Yes but I too am not a fan of Abigail. Passepartout however us a bit thumbs up. I live his Frenchness and how he exaggerates the truth.
As much as I love David Tennant, I just couldn’t get into it… it just didn’t grab me.
The characterisation of Fogg as tortured and a bit unbalanced seems to owe a lot to an obscure Canadian tv series, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0178161/?ref_=nm_knf_i2. Despite the title, Fogg, played by Michael Praed, is the central character, along with his cousin (and repressed love interest) and ass-kicking fellow spy, played by Francesca Hunt. It has a steampunk vibe and a very strong sense of history, taking the characters around various events and meeting various historical characters. It’s spoiled by some weak and ridiculous Dr Who type sci-fi plots, but the characters are fascinating. Passepartout is played by a French comic actor, and his performance is a bit of an acquired taste.
Yeah, pretty good thus far. I like Fogg’s vulnerability and Passpartout’s snark; they work well together. Opening up the story to include French politics is also a plus. Too bad about Abigail’s wardrobe and dialog; with all due respect to male Frockers, most of the writers are guys (although one of the two women worked on “Harlots”): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9174578/fullcredits
I’ve been underwhelmed. It’s better taken as “vaguely inspired by” than a real adaptation of the book. Seems like every episode is going to be a 50-minute Very Special Episode (Paris Commune! Train tracks collapse!), and they’ve had to shoehorn some new antagonists since they replaced Detective Fix with Discount Nellie Bly. That said, I like this version of Passepartout — very different from Cantinflas, but Ibrahim Koma is not too shabby!
I hear it’s been renewed for another season, but, er, what are they going to do? Go around the world again?
I like “Discount Nellie Bly.” I was just going to ask if that’s who Abigail Fix Fortescue was supposed to portray. She’s dressed wrong for it, of course.
I do like her chatelain though. They’re kind of a thing with the history-bounding community right now so it’s nice to see one in a period piece.
(The thing on her belt with the chains with things like a watch hanging off. Victorian pockets were enormous, but not always easy to get at, so you might keep things like a watch, scissors, keys and such on a chatelain.)
I love chatelains. I’d give anything to find an excuse to wear one, especially when I’m wearing my Levis, which has horrendously small pockets.
Abigail’s wearing of the sari is indeed explained in the course of that episode.
OK, I have to say it–doesn’t the darker, tortured Fogg just channel Tennant as The Doctor? There he is flying around the known universe with a dude and a sexy redhead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
There’s been some objection to Abigail as a whitewash of Fogg’s book love interest an Indian lady. Did a black Passpartout somehow use up all the diversity credits?
I think they were very, very wary of the book story in India. “White man jumps into flames to rescue young widow unwillingly about to be burnt to death by savages who don’t appreciate her”? I can see why they didn’t want that. Verne, of course, needed someone who could respectably travel with the hero, so the widow fitted his needs. But as a portrait of India it ranks with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – tacky at best, racist at worst.
Suttee was real, and very terrible. Basically women’s position in old India was awful. I believe there are still some serious issues today.
The thugee were real too though Indiana Jones’version was quite ridiculous and I believe the sect was history by the 1930s and had never been very numerous.
But if the rescue the widow was considered too problematic why not turn her into a westernized Indian woman fighting for the rights of widows?
I wonder if Abigail was meant to be a nod to Nellie Bly, IRL journalist from the period who did make it around the world in 80 days? I mean I wish she was a better homage to Bly than that but the female reporter thing is not a bad choice in and of itself. Just the clunky Anachronistic Feminism ™.
I’m not an expert on 19th and early 20th century feminist dress but I don’t think very wide trousers like those were worn. Turkish trouser arrangements, knickerbockers and ankle length walking skits were as were men’s trousers.
What I want to know is, what’s the deal with Lady Clemency’s makeup? That contouring and lipstick were hella distracting and horrifying.