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BBC adaptation gives J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ a different ending

They thought it needed a more appealing ending.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Feb 10, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 2:03 pm CDT

J.K. Rowling‘s The Casual Vacancy got mixed reviews when it came out in 2012, which may be why the BBC has made significant changes for its TV adaptation.

The novel—Rowling’s first book after the Harry Potter series—told a bleak tale of political infighting and snobbery in a small English town. Most of the characters are unpleasant (in Harry Potter terms, imagine a village populated by Dursleys), and the book’s ending is—without giving too much away—kind of a downer. To make the book palatable to Sunday night drama audiences, the BBC decided to make the whole thing a lot less grim.

Screenwriter Sarah Phelps, who adapted the novel for the BBC, said that Rowling had been “exceptionally generous” toward the TV production.

“I was very straight with Jo [Rowling] and told her that I needed to write a different ending,” Phelps said in a recent interview.

In addition to giving the TV miniseries a more upbeat tone, Phelps changed the ending because she believed viewers needed “some kind of redemptive moment at the end of it all” as an emotional payoff.

The Casual Vacancy was an automatic bestseller because of Rowling’s worldwide fame, and that success will probably be passed on to its TV adaptation. That being said, the trailer looks disappointingly similar to many, many other British social dramas, to the point that we’re wondering if Phelps’ editorial changes were a good idea. Yes, audiences aren’t used to unhappy endings, but at least The Casual Vacancy’s downbeat tone made it stand out from the crowd.

Photo via The White House/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

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*First Published: Feb 10, 2015, 2:02 pm CST