A blockbuster novel and global theater phenomenon for over 150 years comes to life in a multi-layered retelling of Les Misérables, this time as a dramatic six-part miniseries Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on Arizona PBS.
Victor Hugo’s masterpiece novel comes to television in this adaptation, which is not a musical. Dominic West (“The Wire” and “The Affair”) stars as fugitive Jean Valjean, with David Oyelowo as his pursuer, Inspector Javert and Lily Collins as the luckless single mother, Fantine.
Love, death and the struggle for social justice in early 19th-century France feature in this beautifully faithful retelling of one of the world’s most beloved stories. The first English translation of Les Misérables in 1862 left the French title and its meaning — “the wretched” or “the dispossessed.”
The program opens after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, which saw Napoleon’s final defeat by the English and their allies, nearly 25 years after the French Revolution. With Napoleon’s downfall, the French monarchy is restored and the thwarted ideals of the republic go underground. For most of that quarter century, Valjean served a sentence of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. On his release the same year as Waterloo, he immediately resorts to petty crime, risking re-arrest and a life sentence.
Valjean begins his difficult journey to redemption. But always lurking in the background is Javert, determined to bring him to justice for breaking parole and robbing a child. Establishing himself under a new name in a provincial town, Valjean seems safe at last. He prospers as a businessman and is eventually appointed mayor. One day, he gives work to a needy Fantine, who hides the fact that she is the unwed mother of a child named Cosette. These stories between mother and daughter become inextricably entwined with that of the fugitive.
The story reaches its climax during the uprising and features an iconic escape scene through the sewers of Paris, which made the underground tunnels one of the most famous engineering marvels in the world.
Part One (April 14): Convict Jean Valjean makes an enemy of the cruel guard, Javert, but, on release, is moved by the kindness of a bishop who saves him from being re-arrested and learns a valuable lesson from Bishop Myriel.
Part Two (April 21): Living respectably as a provincial mayor and factory owner, Valjean hires the single mother Fantine, who’s keeping a secret. Trouble follows that reunites him with his old adversary, Javert.
Part Three (April 28): Valjean tracks down Fantine’s daughter Cosette, but they need a miracle to escape Javert.
Part Four (May 5): Now a young woman, Cosette moves to Paris under Valjean’s protection. There, she meets the handsome law student Marius, who unwittingly brings a nightmare to life.
Part Five (May 12): As revolution sweeps Paris, Valjean and Cosette hide out, Marius searches for Cosette, Thenardier disappears and Javert obsessively tracks Valjean.
Part Six (May 19): Marius mans the barricades, where a hostile Valjean intercepts him. They end up fleeing together through the sewers of Paris. Cosette’s story reaches its conclusion as does Javert’s.