Tag Archives: Harriet Smith

Yes, there’s an ‘Emma’ for that

Clockwise from top left: Romola Garai (“Emma,” 2009), Gwyneth Paltrow (“Emma,” 1996), Alicia Silverstone (“Clueless,” 1995), Kate Beckinsale (“Emma,” TV, 1996); Doran Godwin (“Emma,” 1972), Joanna Sotomura (“Emma Approved,” 2013).

By Jennifer Abella

Jane Austen might have written a heroine that readers may not much like, but Emma has been brought to life on screens big and small numerous times and in numerous eras. These adaptations can fit any mood and personality. Read on to see which might fit you best.

If you want to see a “darker” side of Highbury…

“Emma” (1996 TV movie)
This adaptation (written by Andrew Davies) isn’t all sweetness and light. It highlights the working class, with pointed glimpses of kitchen maids clearing plates; footmen hauling food and tables up Box Hill; Knightley’s tenants — including Robert Martin — working the fields; and ragged young beggars accosting Harriet on the path. Plus, if you love candlelit scenes, dark-wood sets and dark brown dresses, well, this is the production for you. But watch out for this Emma: Kate Beckinsale plays up her haughty side — she’s a little more mean girl than golden girl. She is not afraid to tell it to you straight.

If you like fashion statements …

“Clueless” (1995)
Plaid? Check. Sailor dresses? Check. Structured jackets? Check. If your fashion philosophy is “go bold or go home,” “Clueless” is your best bet. The film may be 20 years old, but the costumes are still inspiring fashionistas today. And if you grew up in the ‘90s, phrases like “As if!” and “Whatever!” are still part of your lexicon. Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz is a lovable modern Emma, with her heart in the right place even if her plans don’t always work out. She’d make a terrible study partner, but a fantastic shopping buddy … just don’t let her drive you anywhere.

If you love Martha Stewart …

“Emma” (1996 feature film)
This film is like Gwyneth Paltrow’s hair: perfectly coiffed, no strand out of the place. Cool, (mostly) calm and sophisticated, this adaptation has a sheen of Hollywood glamour. Who wouldn’t want to live in this version of Highbury? Like Emma, the film strives for perfection; it may occasionally fail, but we love it anyway.  Paltrow’s heroine is full of helpful hints about love and marriage and even how to embroider. If she ran the Internet, she’d start a lifestyle site like … well … Goop.

If you need cheering up …

“Emma” (2009)
emma-5Stubborn, exuberant and fun. Did I just describe this adaptation or Emma herself? Actually, it’s both. The life of any party, Romola Garai’s Emma could befriend anyone (even if she doesn’t like them), so she’s sure lift your spirits — if you get on her good side, that is. This lively Emma might stop you from marrying that cute farmer down the way, but she can also lift your spirits. It’ll take some time, though: At four hours in length, this adaptation deserves a full lazy afternoon of viewing.

If you’re a Harriet fan …

“Emma” (1972)
Ignore the low-budget production values, the stagey sets and the dated “welcome to the Regency 1970s” look. You can’t help but love this adaptation’s chipper, charming, slightly dim and sweetly indecisive Harriet, played by Debbie Bowen, far left in a striking turquoise bonnet. Doran Godwin brings Emma to prim and proper life, but it’s Harriet who steals the show. You just want to pull an Emma yourself and tell her: Harriet, honey, don’t listen to Emma. Listen to me. (Word the wise: You can find this miniseries here.)


 If you have a short attention span …

“Emma Approved” (2013)
Don’t have two hours or an afternoon to spare? This Web series (which we recapped!) is perfect if you have five minutes here, 10 minutes there. This 21st-century Emma (Joanna Sotomura) is a business-savvy version of Cher Horowitz: a self-centered fashionista who thinks she knows what’s best for everyone — except herself. Betcha can’t watch just one episode though. It can be thoroughly addicting.


If you love social media …

“Emma Approved” (2013)

benefitIn this day and age, it’s hard to go a day without hearing a reference to something someone saw on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. “Emma Approved” allows viewers to experience the story through characters’ social media feeds and blogs.



If you need a Knightley fix …

“Emma Approved,” “Emma” (2009), “Emma” (1996 film)

PhotoGrid_1427337164232This one is a hard choice! If you’re looking for an earnest Knightley, Jeremy Northam’s iteration (1996) is sweet and big brotherly without veering into avuncular territory. Jonny Lee Miller’s 2009 version is a bit tougher, less earnest and more pragmatic with a touch of humor.  Brent Bailey from “Emma Approved” plays down the “Knightley knows best” attitude in favor of treating Emma more as an equal.



Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter. And remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter.


Emma Approved, Episodes 53-57: ‘Holy Oprah!’

By Jennifer Abella

Previously on “Emma Approved” … Emma’s got a hunch (again)


Episode 53 (Gossip Girl): Emma really wants to gossip about Jane. She doesn’t want to make it sound like Jane is her next project because then she’ll sound too much like Caroline, but, well… No, she just wants to let Jane “unburden” herself. Emma learns Jane skipped the wedding of her best friends — Sara and Peter Dixon — in the U.K. Apparently Jane left England abruptly, and Emma is intrigued. Frank stops by to do his duty and flirt incessantly (I guess being a tycoon gives you lots of time to make the girls swoon?). Emma tells him about the laptop, which seemingly makes him curious, too. Emma’s theory: It’s from the U.K. — and maybe from Peter Dixon. Oh, Emma. Worst. Nancy Drew. Ever.


Episode 54 (The Dating Game): While Emma wonders why Frank hasn’t brought in his photo for the bachelor/ette auction catalogue, she gives a snooty impression of Jane, who has nothing of interest to say about anything. (This Jane’s more vocal in this version of “Emma,” but I tend to agree with Emma.) Annie drops off the photo for Frank, who had to jet off unexpectedly. Emma worries Jane likes everyone more than she likes Emma. We haven’t gotten to see Jane interact with many people yet, but Emma’s worries aren’t entirely off-base, I bet. Annie thinks Jane and Alex spend a lot of time together and proposes Emma set them up on a date. Emma flat-out refuses. Hmm.  She tells Annie that she can’t just make up a theory and run with it. Who doesn’t love when Emma tells people things she ought to tell herself?

Episode 55 (Mythbusters): Emma lures Alex and Jane to her office by themselves so she can see if there’s any sparks between them. Of which there are none. But there is plenty of awkward yet friendly conversation. Later, Alex tells Emma he doesn’t like like Jane, to Emma’s relief, but she still wants him to bid on Jane anyway — just in case. Alex jokes that he can’t compete with Frank and his haircut of fanciness. Please.

Episode 56 (Psych): The auction is tomorrow and Frank comes into Emma’s office all mopey-dope, saying he has to leave unexpectedly because an investor is pulling out of his company. Furthermore, he tells Emma that there’s something missing in his life and he thinks Emma might know what it is. WHAAAT. He was actually really sweet here in this moment of vulnerability. But she hurries him out the door, but not before he kisses her hand as he takes his leave. Then she’s all “Holy OPRAH!”: Frank must have been about to ask her out. But she doesn’t know how she feels about him. Then Annie drops another bomb: She’s pregnant. Emma shares her news — not about Frank but Jane/Alex: There’s nothing between them. Annie hints that Frank and Emma would make a good couple.

Somebody’s blushing….

Episode 57 (Babies and Bids): The auction was a success (an old lady won Alex; Mr. Woodhouse bid on Emma) and the business has two new clients: an uber-trendy restaurant called Boxx, with a supersecret anonymous owner — and Annie’s baby shower. And where is Boxx? “In the Hills.” Ba-dum-dum. With two events to juggle, an anxious Harriet goes to Alex for help. She’s all blushy-blushy around him now. Ruhroh, someone’s got a crush. … Alex warns Emma that they might be overwhelmed by the two events, but she’s optimistic. He asks why Boxx has two X’s and she says he’s just jealous because he only has one. And then she pronounces his name all fancy and calls him the “hottest boring accounting guy this summer” and he casually says she called him hot. She is not wrong.

Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter. And remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter.


Emma Approved, Episodes 38-42: Now this, THIS is an entrance

By Jennifer Abella

Previously on “Emma Approved” … Emma’s latest mission: help Maddy Bates.

Well, who could that be? Just wait.

Episode 38 (Surprise, Surprise): Emma’s in panic mode. Jane’s coming to this charity benefit. The Coles’ ranch isn’t a lock. But the “lifestyle excellence gods” look upon her in the form of tall, handsome, flirtatious tycoon Frank Churchill. As they flirt, he remembers he met Maddy’s niece, “Jane … something” in London but she didn’t strike him as anything special. Hmmmm. His company, who does some work with Jane’s nonprofit, is all about renewable energy. Emma mentally checks “celebrity” and “cause” off her party to-do list.

Episode 39 (Benefiting the Greater Good): Deny it all you want, Emma, but someone  is very dressed up today for her meeting with Frank. A a bit of smile smile, flirt flirt, how YOU doin’, she lets him pick where he’ll sit at the benefit; he asks where she’s sitting. She’ll be busy so he says he says he’ll take one for the team and just sit with the Bateses. Snarky Knightley grumps about the money, and Emma shoos him away. Wrong guy, Ems.benefit

Episode 40 (Two for Two): The benefit was a smashing success. Frank helped them earn $150,000 for charity, and Maddy came out of it with tons of business cards. Alex wonders why people think Frank’s a big deal. Emma accuses him of being jealous, and he denies it. They “did not/did too” when they should be kissing, but whatever. Maddy stops by with her gross jams, and of course Alex is so sweet, because he samples it on camera. Emma is touched that Maddy calls her one of her “favorite girls,” even if the other girl is Jane. Maddy bustles off to follow up with her new contacts. And Emma’s perfect streak continues!

I just want to prepare for what’s coming next because it’s kind of big. Ready? Okay.

Caroline Lee, a.k.a. the future Mrs. James Elton.
Caroline Lee, a.k.a. the future Mrs. James Elton.

Episode 41 (Karma is a …): So Emma’s all excited, because she’s certain their next client is just around the corner. She’s not wrong, either. Like a bad penny guess who turns up but James “Sen. Jerkface” Elton! WHAT. Surprised? Just wait. James wants to hire Emma. No, not to find him a wife; he snidely says that’s obviously not her strong suit. (Ooh, burn.) He wants her to plan his engagement party. DOUBLE WHAT. Which is pretty much what she says. He raves about his lady’s beauty, brains, ambition and family connections. And she’s on the way to meet Emma. Emma fills in Alex, who’s just happy for the business. He says that if she refuses to plan the party, James’ll think she’s not over their last encounter. James calls Alex “Alec.” Ugh. They’re chatting when James’s fiancee arrives. Now. Here’s where it helps to have watched “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Because his fiancee is none other than … Caroline Lee. TRIPLE WHAAAAAT. If you don’t recognize that name, “LBD” transformed Mr. Bingley into Bing Lee, ergo Caroline is his manipulative sister. This was a brilliant move by the producers: Bringing a favorite character from the “LBD” universe over to the show was a big surprise fans of both series. And Caroline makes for a great Mrs. Elton: simpering, cunning and arrogant. Now back to the show! Caroline of the incredibly shiny hair saunters in, and Emma — like the rest of us — is in total shock. I just can’t even…. (Seriously, if you haven’t watched “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” go do so and come back in about 9 or 10 hours after you’re done.)

Episode 42 (No, No and No): Emma really does not want to plan the engagement do. Emma says Caroline Lee is too high maintenance and Alex is smart enough to stop himself from pointing out the obvious similarities between Emma and Caroline. Emma says she’s heard “mixed” feedback about the future Mrs. Elton (probably on Twitter, from every viewer telling her to RUNNNNNNNNNNN!) and worries about Harriet’s reaction if they take the job. So she breaks the news to Harriet, who takes it pretty well. Alex wants Emma to look at this job as an opportunity — for revenge? she asks — for redemption, he says, for the demise of her last perfect streak. And finally Em’s on board. Oh, this is gonna be fun.

Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter. And remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter.