‘Howard’s End’ Is The Latest Project From The ‘Manchester By The Sea’ Screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan

The four-part television series Howard’s End debuted Sunday night on BBC and fans of E.M. Forster were excited to see another incarnation of the novel which was first made into a movie in 1992. The latest version of Howard’s End was shaped by screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan whose last project, Manchester By The Sea, won several Oscars last season. But would a writer who largely writes contemporary dramas be able to work his magic with Howard’s End, an Edwardian saga? Lonergan thought it was a great fit and has accepted the challenge to perhaps modernize some aspects for today’s audience while still leaning heavily on Forster.

The Kenneth Lonergan/BBC version of Howard’s End is less dramatic and theatrical than the 1992 movie which starred Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anthony Hopkins. Lonergan explained that it was his goal to add some more realism to Howard’s End while still sticking to the structure put in place by Forster. Many of the actors in this Howard’s End are not that recognizable to American audiences, which also adds something to this new version.

“At first glance, the characters are all direct representatives of their respective classes. The two central relationships don’t seem completely credible, emotionally. And you get the impression, incorrectly, that E.M. Forster has never met a poor person. Surrounding all that is this amazing tapestry of life in Edwardian England, all these issues that for intellectuals were very vital and immediate. And the more I had to rely on the material, the less help I thought it needed.”

Lonergan said that the Schlegel sisters, two of the main characters in Howard’s End, are two of the best characters in fiction.

Howard’s End will certainly attract those who tuned in to Downton Abbey every week, and even though the novel was written over one hundred years ago, the themes and messages still stand up today. Like Downton Abbey, Howard’s End is the story of class struggles, old money versus new money, and those who are educated and cultured versus those who are putting on airs. Lonergan’s Howard’s End is a no-brainer for those who love a costume drama.

But the first installment of the four-part Howard’s End on BBC didn’t go off entirely without a hitch. The actual broadcast of Howard’s End attracted large numbers of viewers, and critics enjoyed it, but some of those who did tune in complained of technical problems, according to TVOvermind.

“Many people expressed their frustration at the loud background music in the show, finding it difficult to hear the dialogue. This seems to be less an issue with the show as with BBC, as this has been a recurring issue. Unfortunately, some viewers found the loud soundtrack so distracting that they have given up on the series.”

Many BBC viewers complained that they were barely able to hear the dialogue in Howard’s End and turning up the volume didn’t fix the problems, because it just made the background music louder too. Complaints of this source have repeatedly been an issue for eight years, and viewers complain that BBC has ignored viewer comments.

Social media, especially Twitter was full of comments, many of them by people who wanted to watch Howard’s End, but found that due to sound issues, they couldn’t. One person on Twitter said they felt ignored.

“Every time people complain to the BBC about loud soundtracks they are patronized and ignored.”

Another Howard’s End viewer said that they tried to watch the whole thing, but couldn’t.

“Another ruined drama by the use of loud inane music. Just when you think it’s stopped, the flaming harp and violins start again.”

[Featured Image by BBC/BBC America]