'Dickensian' (Photo: BBC)

As a concept for a TV show, Dickensian is pretty hard to beat. It’s a 20-part drama made by the BBC which imagines what it would be like if the most notable characters from the able pen of Charles Dickens all lived next door to one another.

So Fagin can pick the pocket of Scrooge, Miss Havisham can gaze out of her dusty window at The Old Curiosity Shop, which is next to The Three Cripples pub. And Tiny Tim can cadge shoulder rides off the Artful Dodger.

The show, which stars British TV character actors of the calibre of Peter Firth (Mi5), Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) and Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) has just revealed its first trailer, just to set the scene:

Pauline Collins plays Mrs Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, and said in a press release that she’s very excited by the concept: “We are taking characters that everyone knows and loves into a whole new world where anything is possible. You don’t need to know Dickens’ novels to fall in love with the stories we’re telling. It’s going to be a real treat to watch.”

And before anyone gets in a tizzy about the sacrilege of defiling great works of literature in this way, consider three things:

1. Dickens wrote his books as popular serial fiction, in the same way scriptwriters write TV dramas (or even soap operas) now.

2. Those books are still on the shelves in their original form. No defiling has taken place.

3. It might be good.

Dickensian hits British TV screens on December 26.

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By Fraser McAlpine