Look, we don’t want to jump to any conclusions about The CW’s new anthology series Modern Austen, like claiming that it’s “Jane Austen’s Riverdale,” i.e., the sort of phrase so devastating and uncontrollable that it should probably come with government sanctions pre-attached. We’re just saying that this particular network, adapting this particular author in the form of stories taking place in the modern day? It raises more red flags than when Mr. Digglesby said he thought the vicar’s hat was far too ostentatious. (Cue raucous Regency Era laughter.)
Per Variety, the show, which will adapt Austen’s six novels (Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey) into six seasons of TV, is being developed by Eleanor Burgess, recently of HBO’s Perry Mason revival. The current plan is for the show’s first season to be devoted to Pride And Prejudice, transplanting Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to a world in which romance has been shaped by Tinder, Netflix, etc. (And to be clear, we mean they exist in that modern world naturally, not that the original characters are time traveling—especially since “Jane Austen hangs out with time travelers” has already been done on this very network.) Future seasons will dip into the rest of Austen’s celebrated bibliography.
Austen is, of course, among the most adapted authors ever; even if we’re just considering versions of her work that are set specifically in the modern era, we need look no further than Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, which translated Emma into Beverly Hills teen-speak with shocking success and grace. Meanwhile, Modern Austen is still in development at The CW; no word yet on when we’ll hear if it’ll successfully make the leap to a full series.