The Casual Vacancy (miniseries)

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The Casual Vacancy
DVD cover for The Casual Vacancy.jpg
DVD cover
Genre Drama
Based on The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Written by Sarah Phelps [1]
Directed by Jonny Campbell [1]
Starring Monica Dolan
Michael Gambon
Keeley Hawes
Rufus Jones
Rory Kinnear
Simon McBurney
Julia McKenzie
Abigail Lawrie
Composer Solomon Grey
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes3 [2] [3]
Executive producers Paul Trijbits
Rick Senat
Neil Blair
J. K. Rowling [2]
ProducerRuth Kenley-Letts [1]
CinematographyTony Slater Ling
EditorTom Hemmings
Running time182 minutes
Production companyBrontë Film and Television
Distributor BBC (United Kingdom)
Warner Bros. Television Distribution (International) [4]
Original network BBC One (United Kingdom)
HBO (United States and Canada)
Picture format 16:9 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release15 February (2015-02-15) 
1 March 2015 (2015-03-01)
External links

The Casual Vacancy is a 2015 British miniseries based on the 2012 novel of the same title by J. K. Rowling. [5] Directed by Jonny Campbell and written by Sarah Phelps, the series premiered on 15 February 2015 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and on 29 April 2015 on HBO in the United States. [6]



Pagford is a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey, behind the pretty façade however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils. Pagford is not what it first seems. At the Parish Council meeting the subject of Sweetlove House and its legacy arises. Howard Mollison, the Chairman, heads up the faction who want to see an end to the legacy; the thorn in his side is Barry Fairbrother, who makes an impassioned speech outlining the importance of the legacy, and the services it provides. For now, Barry has won the argument.

When Barry dies suddenly, Pagford is left in shock, and the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the village has yet seen. Three candidates are soon lined up: Miles Mollison, Howard's son; Colin Wall, Barry's friend; and Simon Price, Barry's half-brother.

The parish council election approaches and Pagford is on tenterhooks, awaiting the next post from 'The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother'.

Samantha decides to give a dinner party for all the warring factions on the parish council. But when Howard and Shirley unexpectedly arrive, the party soon spirals out of control.

Across in The Fields, Terri is waking up from the mist of her addiction, on the fragile road to recovery. Krystal begins to hope there might be a future for her family.

With the parish council election imminent, tensions rise in Pagford and each side steps up their campaign. Meanwhile, Samantha and Miles' marriage has reached breaking point. Miles pleads for a quiet life, promising that once the election is over everything will calm down, but Samantha doesn't believe him.

Howard's dark secret is revealed in The Ghost's final post, while in The Fields Krystal returns home to find Terri back to her old ways. Hope seems more fragile than ever, and news of a tragedy leaves the whole community reeling.



The miniseries was announced on 3 December 2012. [5] It was commissioned from The Blair Partnership who represent J. K. Rowling. The series was produced through an independent production company operated by Neil Blair and Rick Senat (who were executive producers of the series), on behalf of The Blair Partnership. The deal was struck following discussions between Blair and BBC One Controller Danny Cohen. J. K. Rowling was to collaborate closely with the project, with the number and length of the episodes then still to be decided. [5]

On 12 September 2013, Warner Bros. announced that it will serve as the worldwide TV distributor of the series, except in the United Kingdom. [4]

After a year and a half without news on the production itself, casting was announced in June 2014. Filming began in August 2014 in the Gloucestershire towns of Painswick, Bisley, Northleach and Minchinhampton, Dauntsey, and in the city of Bristol and at Archway School. [9]

British band Solomon Grey composed the music for the series, which heavily features tracks from their 2015 album Selected Works, along with original songs. [10]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [11]
1"Episode 1" Jonny Campbell Sarah Phelps 15 February 2015 (2015-02-15)8.80
The village of Pagford is left in shock when a local resident dies. Pagford is seemingly an English idyll, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a community at war.
2"Episode 2"Jonny CampbellSarah Phelps22 February 2015 (2015-02-22)6.39
The parish council election approaches and Pagford is on tenterhooks awaiting the next post from 'the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother'.
3"Episode 3"Jonny CampbellSarah Phelps1 March 2015 (2015-03-01)5.95
With the parish council election imminent, tensions rise in Pagford.

Critical reception

The critical response to the opening episode was mostly positive. In a particularly praise-filled review for Digital Spy, Cameron McKewan described the series as having a "perfect cast with a biting script". He summarised: "It's a cracking first instalment for the three-part series with bountiful characters to take in, and the relationships not clearly defined from the outset (rewardingly so)" [12] In a review for The Guardian , Stuart Jeffries also gave a positive response, whilst describing the series as "The Archers meets Benefit Street" [13] Comparing the TV adaptation more positively than the novel itself, Gerard O'Donovan, in a review for The Telegraph , awarded the series opener 4 out of 5 stars. He optimistically summarised: "...the performances are uniformly good, the direction is inventive, and there's an undeniable topicality and panache to this adaptation that convinces you that just around the corner something will pull it all together and make it succeed." [14] Ellen E Jones, writing for The Independent , took a similar approach with review title: "JK Rowling's story is a far better drama than it is a book" [15]

Elsewhere, however, reception to the series opening episode were less favourable. Grace Dent of The Independent said that "it was odd to read reports that the show was attacking the middle classes and glorifying 'the noble savage'. It was glaringly clear, to me at least, from Phelps' script that while Michael Gambon's character Howard Mollison was indeed a terrible snob, we could hardly disagree that the 'feral' kids wiping bogeys down his deli window were spoiling village ambience. These were difficult notions of 'village life' – the junkies, the domestic abusers, the shark-like property developers, the upwardly mobiles, [and] the downwardly spiralling – and I applaud Rowling and Phelps for picking at them." [16]

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"Episode 2" is the second episode of the British miniseries The Casual Vacancy based on the novel of the same title by J. K. Rowling.

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  14. O'Donovan, Gerard. "The Casual Vacancy, episode 1, review: 'undeniable panache'". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 16 February 2015.
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  16. Dent, Grace. "Ignore the BBC-bashing pillocks: The Casual Vacancy is as entertaining as it is realistic". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2015.