Sunday Night TV Battle: The Casual Vacancy vs. Indian Summers

Sunday night at 9PM is the perfect time for a drama – it gives you something to take your mind off the week ahead and the horrors of Monday. Two weeks ago, two new dramas started at this time. The first is The Casual Vacancy, showing on BBC1, which is based on JK Rowling’s novel of the same name. The second is Indian Summers, set in India in 1932 during the final years of British rule. It’s probably unfair to compare the two – The Casual Vacancy is a manageable 3 part adaptation whilst Indian Summers is a 10 episode beast of a series…this also means there’s only one episode of The Casual Vacancy to go. But as it stands so far, which one comes out on top?

SETTING

The Casual Vacancy: Quaint, quintessential English village – with a less desirable neighbouring council estate.

Indian Summers: Lush Indian (although technically Malaysian – it was filmed in Penang) vegetation, vibrant colours, bustling streets and beautiful villas. You can almost feel the heat, which is lovely when you’re sat in a rainy, freezing cold England.

Winner: Indian Summers. The setting is truly beautiful and really transports you somewhere far away from your sofa.

PLOT

The Casual Vacancy: Virtually everyone in the village is absolutely vile, and – spoiler alert – the one really nice guy dies. Then it’s a fight to see who will take his Parish Council place…although someone has other ideas. It moves at a nice pace and it’s easy to keep up with.

Indian Summers: No exaggeration, I have no idea what is going on. Not a clue. Given that my memory is awful and there are a lot of characters, I accept this could be all my fault but I had to resort to reading the Guardian’s episode recap just to find out what had happened. Obviously there are a lot of unanswered questions and secrets at the moment – which is a good thing because there’s 8 episodes left to fill…

Winner: The Casual Vacancy – purely because out of the two, I’m more excited about watching it’s conclusion. I admit, Indian Summers might get better as it goes but if I’m perfectly honest it’s a Sunday night and so far it’s requiring far too much concentration.

CHARACTERS 

The Casual Vacancy: Admittedly, most of the characters are horrible, but throughout the drama you get the opportunity to understand a little bit more about why they are the way they are. You also feel real sympathy for anyone under the age of 18 stuck in this god-awful village. I have a particular fondness for Kyrstal Weedon – daughter of a local heroin addict who is just trying to make her way through life.

krystal weedon

Indian Summers: There are a lot of characters…I just haven’t felt any emotional connection with most of them yet. I do have a favourite but I literally cannot remember her name which sort of speaks for itself.

Winner: The Casual Vacancy.

CASTING

The Casual Vacancy: Dumbledore and Miss Marple, plus Rory Kinnear, Keeley Hawes and Emilia Fox.

Julia McKenzie Michael Gambon

Indian Summers: The one and only Julie Walters, plus the bully from The Inbetweeners and some amazing newbies.

Winner: The Casual Vacancy. Honestly thought Mrs Walters was unbeatable but we haven’t seen enough of her in the first two episodes and Michael Gambon and Julia McKenzie are killing it as the interfering, prejudiced old couple.

COSTUME, HAIR & MAKEUP

The Casual Vacancy: An impressively realistic heroin addict, an interesting take on school uniform and Keeley Hawes looking INCREDIBLE with flaming red hair.

Generics

Indian Summers: Seriously beautiful outfits – and some incredibly daring necklines for the 30’s.

Indian Summers Ep 1

Winner: Indian Summers

OVERALL WINNER

The Casual Vacancy. Out of the two, it’s the one I would recommend. However, Indian Summers seems like it has so much more to offer us, so may review it again in a couple of weeks to see if my feelings towards it change! You can catch up on both on iPlayer/4OD.

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