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TV Review: BBC America’s ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the seven-part miniseries beginning Saturday night on BBC America, is based on Susanna Clarke's best-selling novel of the same. Adapted by Peter Harness (Wallander) and directed by Toby Haynes (Sherlock), Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell offers an alternate history of 19th century England during the Napoleonic wars, where magic exists. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“The question with regard to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a seven-part mini-series beginning Saturday night on BBC America, is whether the people involved had the magical ability to capture the spirit of the outsize (846 pages in paperback), allusive 2004 fantasy novel by Susanna Clarke on which it’s based. The answer, almost inevitably, is no — asked to produce more enchantment, they’ve countered by making a largely unremarkable mini-series.”
Mike Hale, The New York Times

“On the other hand, the plot-forward strategy necessitated by TV makes the series smart fun from the start, managing impressive spectacle even if it doesn’t have the visual firepower of the most epic Thrones episodes. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a fleet, entertaining transfiguration that keeps Clarke’s big ideas while pulling a few tricks from its own sleeve.”
James Poniewozik, Time

“For those put off by beheadings and orgies and even for those who are not, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a welcome return to literate magical fantasy.”
Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

“This adaptation doesn’t offer a filmmaking equivalent for Clarke’s storytelling voice, but writer Peter Harness (Wallander) and director Toby Haynes (Sherlock) conjure a smart streamlining and handsome staging. [...] While short of magical, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is nonetheless an enjoyable enchantment.”
Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly

“Devotees of Clarke’s book may get some pleasure out of seeing this world replicated, if only as a husk, onscreen. But fan service only goes so far.”
Keith Uhlich, The Hollywood Reporter