Some previous adaptations of Oliver Twist, such as the musical Oliver!, wore the sharp edges off of Charles Dickens’ portrait of the sordid underside of Victorian London. This brisk, vibrant new two-part Masterpiece restores all the pathos, cruelty, and muck the author intended. An excellent cast brings the sometimes grotesque characters to vivid life: Timothy Spall as a splendid Fagin, Sophie Okonedo as the tragic doxy Nancy, Tom Hardy as a truly menacing Bill Sikes, Adam Arnold as the Artful Dodger. As the plucky hero (the first child protagonist in an English novel, host Laura Linney points out), young William Miller is sympathetic but never syrupy. Sundays, Feb. 15–22, at 9 p.m., PBS; check local listings
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Show of the week: Masterpiece: Oliver Twist
February 5, 2009
of The Week magazine.