Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Reality TV Pitch- The REAL Austenland!

Who else thinks they would like to spend a bit of time in a REAL Austenland? You know, go to England, and truly immerse yourself in the day to day "reality" of life 200 years ago. I would love to and I rather think that you would too. But how costly would it be to make a theme park and who could afford to go there? So here is my pitch to BBC or ITV or whoever has the ability to make this happen.

Take your basic English country house. You know the type. Somewhere we would love to poke around in and be genteel for a week or two at least. Then add two or three females who have serious Darcy crushes (and who we can relate to as surrogates for our experience). Give them wardrobes, a ladies maid and a staff of however many it took to run a place like this in the 19th century. And then film them as they go through the day as Elizabeth Bennet would have.

And let it be truly realistic. Take away their smart phones, lace them into corsets, give them only the toiletries that a well heeled Regency lady would have had and let the cameras roll.

Let them use the facilities available for the time (OK, turn the cameras off at this point) so that we can see how it REALLY was. Candles and fires for evening light only. Books and pianoforte as the only entertainment other than walks and morning visits and games of whist. Mutton for dinner. Bring it on BBC!!!

Sooo...we could just leave it there. I mean, there would be plenty for the historians to show us about our misconceptions about how lovely the life of a genteel lady in Regency England would be. And I would love to hear how a modern woman feels like a fish out of water when transplanted a century or two. I think most of us would really enjoy Austenland but then we'd like to come home and have our smartphones and our beauty products back!

But what if we then showed these Darcy-holic women (not so very unlike ourselves) what the life of an average English woman was like? Perhaps the wife or daughter of a coal or tin miner who has to scrape by and make a small wage stretch a long way.

Show them the cooking and cleaning and marketing and gardening involved in the Regency or Victorian life of most of our non-artistocratic ancestors. I don't know about you but I don't have anyone resembling Elizabeth Bennet in my family tree. My ancestors were more like characters out of Oliver Twist or Mary Barton!

And I wouldn't want to see this through the eyes of the ever cheerful and vastly freckled Ruth Goodman, who seems thrilled to scour floors on her hands and knees and milk cows and then make her own cheese/butter/cake/whatever with plenty of energy to spare. Nooooo, that's not what I want to see (I have already watched Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Victorian Pharmacy and Wartime Farm, so I know this lady cannot be worn down).

No, I want the reality TV version where a few soft 21st Century females are left weeping over laundry day, knowing that they still have to feed a family of 8 at the end of the day and weed the garden, and do the marketing before the day is done so she can then roll up her sleeves to wash up the dishes! I want to vicariously experience the dishpan hands and the communal outhouse behind the cottage!

Actually, as long as the working class families had enough to eat, they were probably just as happy as the upper class members of society...just a bit more tired at the end of the day I suppose. But I would miss my dishwasher and my computer a lot more if I were transplanted into the Austenland of my actual ancestors. No aristocracy in my family tree!

Am I alone in wanting to see this? I hope not! But the question is, what will the BBC say to my pitch? Please let me know what you think before I try to figure out who to send my idea to!


Thanks to the person who suggested that what I was pitching sounded like Regency House Party from 2004. I have already lost a few hours watching it on YouTube. Link is here, but beware. Very addictive!


  1. I think this would be fabulous! I am one person who does not think the idea of Austenland is so far fetched. I know I would go! The UK could probably rake it in if they actually set one up!

  2. P.S. I shared your idea on my FB Page - Hope you receive some hits.

  3. Hi Jenny:

    That's a great idea. I would definably watch an Austenland reality program. And I think you're right. As long as you had enough to eat, I suspect a commoners life could be happier than that of the rich. Especially for women. A wealthy ladies life seemed similar to the life of a modern day celebrity who is ever in the eye of the public. Everyone waiting for a miss-step.

    I suspect the typical lady spent a long tedious day, whereas the peasants spent a short busy hard working day. There was also a greater sense of community in the pre-TV era.

  4. As I was reading your post, I immediately thought of the reality show, Regency House Party. In case you haven't seen it, it is quite similar to your descriptions.

  5. Lady Jenny, bring it on!

  6. Here's a link where you can watch "Regency House Party."

  7. Whether or not one comes to fruition, one did come in the form of Karen Doornebos's excellent book, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. I borrowed it from the NY Public Library and it was a delightful romp.

  8. Just saw Austenland yesterday! I loved it and I live this pitch! Hope it comes to life, wouldn't mind participating in it!

  9. Going to see it next week. Can't wait!

    1. Hi Olga. Austenland doesn't get to Waterloo until next week. I will do a post then and you can tell me if you liked it. I think I am going to enjoy it!!

  10. This needs to be a real place. I'd be the first in line for tickets.

  11. I love this idea. I am working on an idea for book that incorporates this idea. The difference being that I have made it into a "Survivor" style show where people are eliminated by the chaperones because of there failure to follow the rules of society for the time period. In my story they spend a week being tutored - how to dress, dance, and other rules of etiquette and then the next week they live the life.




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