Jamaica Inn, the highly-anticipated three-part BBC One adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 gothic novel, kicked off to strong ratings on Monday night – and got a lot of people talking. But much of the chatter has come in the form of complaints – nearly 2,200 so far, according to BBC News. British viewers are decrying sound issues, and what people have called “mumbling” by the cast of the Origin Pictures production. (The Twittersphere is referring to it as #MumbleInn.) Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay stars with Joanne Whalley, Sean Harris and Matthew McNulty in the drama that’s set in 1820s Cornwall (a West Country county that has a very particular accent). But there’s been some debate as to whether the sound troubles were technical or artistic. Here’s the trailer:
After initial complaints, the BBC on Tuesday apologized, saying there were “issues with the sound levels” which would be adjusted for episodes 2 and 3. (Screenwriter Emma Frost also tweeted: “None of the production team knew what happened with the (transmission) sound. It was fine before.”) Even so, folks continued to gripe and after Monday’s first installment averaged 6.09M viewers, the mini shed 2M viewers by its last on Wednesday. When asked about actors’ delivery, BBC Drama Controller Ben Stephenson told BBC News, “I think actors not being clear is one part of it, but my understanding about the complaints about Jamaica Inn was more complex than that… Of course we want (actors) to give brilliant performances and you’ve got to respect that, but if no one can understand what they’re saying, then there’s a problem.” The “problem” isn’t exactly new as far as the public and the BBC are concerned. Complaints have been made about previous BBC dramas including Birdsong and Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer Parade’s End. Last summer, BBC Director General Tony Hall told Radio Times, “I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I also think muttering is something we could have a look at.” There is currently no U.S. broadcast partner for Jamaica Inn, but if it does cross the Atlantic, it will likely come with subtitles.
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