The supposed Pride and Prejudice parody, Plots and Proposals, is a funny sketch I stumbled on a while ago. It was originally broadcast in the UK on Christmas Day 2000 as a christmas special of ‘Victoria Wood with all the trimmings’ and has been broadcast for the last three christmases in the UK. With all the gorgeous set design and extras, it’s as good as it comes with the BBC hallmark quality but with a Blackadder-esque sense of humour attached. Written by Victoria Wood, and directed by John Birkin, the wordy screenplay is no doubt enjoyable for any Janeite.
Expect big British names (Alan Rickman – Harry Potter, Victoria Wood – who has been in several period spoofs, Imelda Staunton – Harry Potter, Bill Paterson – Law & Order UK, Richard E Grant – you’ll soon see him in The Iron Lady, James Bolam – when the boat comes in, Geraldine McEwan – Miss Marple, Pete Postlethwaite – Inception/Jurassic Park/Romeo and Juliet, Honeysuckle Weeks – Foyle’s War and on stage as Eliza Doolittle and apparently there’s a Delia Smith cameo) but also expect a niche little video that not many other people have seen. Finding information on this parody is difficult.
It was filmed in the Georgian style home Squerryes Court in Westerham, Kent, which is a 17th Century manor house surrounded by gardens that you get a fair view of in the video, and apparently there are gorgeous views. (For the keen: you can actually rent the place out for weddings and corporate events according to the website). There are drawing rooms, dining rooms, a gazebo, historical paintings, porcelain, tapestries and furniture, and it just looks gorgeous. The gardens are 10 acres in size and have daffodils, herb borders, roses, hedges, bluebells, a parterre, a dovecote, lakes and water features. Unfortunately, the official website mentions that in 2012 the home will be passed to the next generation and as such visiting may no longer be applicable. You’ve probably seen the house in other adaptations without realising it before, including as Hartfield in the 2009 BBC Emma adaptation, in the Foyle’s War TV series (also featuring Honeysuckle Weeks) and even 2009’s The Boat That Rocked.
For another fun tidbit, IMDb trivia says that the costume worn by Alice Cottisloe when she opens the door is the same as worn by Billie Piper in Mansfield Park, Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility and Rosamund Stephen in Persuasion.
You’ll see plenty of tea-cup clinking, wordplay and banter. It is a bit on the ridiculous side- accidental proposals that you can’t wriggle out of, handkerchief wailing and a huge number of letters. It is this last point that I think parodies Pride and Prejudice the most. The vast number of important and pressing letters, arriving weeks or months later to the recipient (particularly admirals and similar at war) reminded me of how amusing it was when Lizzy received the news about Lydia, only for it basically to be old news by the time she had gotten home.
Despite this piece being called a P&P parody by numerous blogs (including in a janeausten.co.uk forum and many fan fic sites), I see it more as a period drama parody. I found an interesting tidbit where Honeysuckle Weeks (yes, that’s her real name) who was the main love interest in the piece said: “I filmed a Victoria Wood Christmas Special there, a spoof of Sense and Sensibility called Plots and Proposals. It was quite different this time. In Plots and Proposals, I played Kate Winslet’s character and was dressed in a Regency outfit, frolicking in the garden with ringlets.” To me, this makes a whole lot more sense (particularly with the kickback in costuming mentioned above).
That it does not mention anything specifically Pride and Prej related may then stand to reason, but it does giggle at some of the quirks of the era: “I don’t know it’s a funny period, Regency” it at one moment points out. Criticisms of the piece include that there are too many distracting celebrity cameos, and Neil Brandwood writes of the skit briefly in his book ‘Victoria Wood: The Biography’ saying: “Typifying ‘BBC Upmarket’ was a parody of a period costume drama. Plots and Proposals was tired, unoriginal and smacked of indulgence.” Personally I’m not sure it warrants that sort scathing response.
I stumbled on this fun outtake (if you find any more let me know!):
Have you seen it? Are you a fan? Do you think it warrants the title a “Pride and Prejudice Parody”?