Our friends at the BBC told us yesterday:
Monday’s launch episode of new BBC period drama Jamaica Inn sparked more than 100 complaints, after sound issues left viewers struggling to understand what was being said on screen.
The three-part adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel stars former Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay.
Some viewers said they had to use subtitles to understand the “mumbling”….
The BBC blamed a technical problem:
….The BBC later apologised to viewers, claiming the “issues with the sound levels” could not be altered while the drama was on air….
What a relief! We had thought it was us. Apparently we were among the millions sitting there also asking ourselves, “What are they saying?”
My mother-in-law was particularly scathing: “I don’t understand a word of this rubbish. And everyone’s so dirty. I read this book, I don’t remember this like that.”
While a sound issue may have been the culprit this time, interestingly the BBC a year ago addressed the issue of mumbling actors:
The BBC’s new director general Tony Hall has complained that actors aren’t speaking clearly enough in TV drama. Is it time to cut the mumble, asks Ben Milne….
Sorry, what was that you said? My wife and I had been wondering also how Jamaica Inn would, uh, play in America? If UK viewers had struggled to understand the dialogue, US viewers probably would have been totally lost: “Oh, look, it’s Lady Sybil! Hey, where’s Carson? Gee, Downton Abbey has really fallen on hard times, hasn’t it?” 😉
UPDATE: April 24: The BBC reports the “technical problem” did not apparently improve when it came to the second and third episodes.
Six million viewers had tuned into the first episode. Only 4.1 million watched the third (and final) one.
We’ll see if PBS buys this “atmospheric adaptation”….