1. Pride and Prejudice BBC (1995)
This one is a given. No mini-series list would be complete without it. It's the first one I remember watching, and, like the book, it never fails to make me happy. It's so comforting, so fun and just such a great adaptation. Of course, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close. While Jennifer Ehle is good as Lizzie, her portrayal is not how I see the character in looks or personality. But Colin Firth as Mr Darcy - I don't really need to say how spectacular that is, do I? He IS Mr Darcy.
2. North and South BBC 2004
Elizabeth Gaskell's hate-at-first-sight-turned-love story has a lot in common with Pride and Prejudice, but unlike Jane Austen, Gaskell doesn't shy away from the, er, grittier aspects of life, such as extreme poverty and death. While this means watching this adaptation is perhaps less "fun", it's definitely not less enjoyable. Emotions such as grief are portrayed in a completely raw and real way, making for a rich viewing experience that is enhanced by the amazing acting and stunning visuals. But I'm making it sound kinda morbid, aren't I? It's actually not - sure, there are heaps of sad parts, but there's also plenty to smile about and a super romantic love story. Plus, Richard Armitage as Mr Thornton definitely gives Mr Darcy a run for his money.
3. The Forsyte Saga ITV 2002
Spanning decades and generations of the massive Forsyte family, The Forsyte Saga, based on the series by John Galsworthy, is dramatic, beautiful and completely addictive. I know the original mini-series from 1967 is supposed to be fantastic, but I've never seen it, mainly because I've got such a soft spot for the 2002 version. It aired here when I was in the middle of one helluva hectic semester of uni.
Loser Nerd that I was, I'd spend many a Saturday night studying until 11.30pm, when I gave myself a break and treated myself to The Forsyte Saga. Yep. But even post-uni, I still love it, and still find it gripping to watch, even though I've seen it a bajillion times.
4. Wives and Daughters BBC 1999
Telling the story of Molly, a doctor's daughter, and her relationships with her new step-mother and -sister as well as the rich Hamley family, Wives and Daughters is another adaptation based on an Elizabeth Gaskell novel. Although it's much lighter and frothier than North and South, it's not without its sadness - in fact, one of my favourite scenes involves a character's death. Sounds strange, I know, but it's so powerful and wonderfully acted, it's hard not to love it, even though it's totally heartbreaking. While I think one or two characters are perhaps slightly miscast, mainly for superficial reasons (Tom Hollander isn't my idea of the "beautiful" Osbourne, for instance), overall the cast is excellent, and Michael Gambon's performance is a particular standout.
5. Jane Eyre BBC 2006
I adored the new movie version of Jane Eyre, but you can't really beat the mini-series - if only for its ability to explore the full story and characters in a way a time-restricted movie can't. Still, that doesn't mean it keeps everything from the book, and actually, there are a couple of changes that I know many fans don't like. But I don't really have any complaints on that front - I quite like the scenes that are added/altered. The acting is, once again, awesome, and Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester puts the swoon in swoon-worthy.
Do you agree with my list? What's your fave mini-series?