TV Trailer Watch: PBS' Star-Packed 'Les Miserables'

The Hollywood Reporter puts the spotlight on TV series that may fly under the radar, including PBS' star-packed adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel.
Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Lookout Point
'Les Miserables'

Welcome to Trailer Watch, a regular feature that helps put the spotlight on series that may fly under the radar in the crowded Peak TV landscape. Each installment of Trailer Watch will explain what the show is and why it looks interesting. This week it's PBS' Les Miserables miniseries, starring Olivia Colman.

Revolutionary storytelling has a relevance in 2019, which is fitting for PBS' Masterpiece offering Les Miserables, based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel about a group of characters in revolutionary France over a period of almost two decades leading up to the anti-monarchist June Rebellion.

It's a story that's been told many times on stage and screen and, of course, as a record-breaking musical. This miniseries, originally made for the BBC, strays from previous well-known adaptations by focusing on the original source material and choosing to offer a prestige drama rather than re-creating the famed musical version.

One of the key attractions here is the outstanding cast. Dominic West (The Wire, The Affair) stars as Jean Valjean, the man at the center of the story who spends almost 20 years trying to achieve redemption and a normal life after stealing bread to feed his starving sister.

According to British reviews, the standout is David Oyelowo (Selma) as Javert, the police officer who dedicates his life to making sure that Jean Valjean will never truly be free. The rest of the core cast is made up of Lily Collins (To the Bone) as the orphan Fantine, who ends up as a sex worker after becoming a single mother, and Ellie Bamber (Nocturnal Animals) as Cosette, Fantine's daughter.

Olivia Colman (The Favourite) takes on the iconic role of Madame Thénardier, alongside Adeel Akhtar as her cruel and domineering husband. The pair play a vital part in Cosette and Fantine's story as they take on the young daughter as a ward but don't treat her well. It's a great chance for Colman's fans to see the Oscar winner taking on a completely different kind of period role.

As the trailer showcases, Les Miserables is a high-end production that's most concerned with the poverty, struggle and revolution at the center of this story. It's a strangely pertinent topic with current conversations about class, wealth and the prison industrial system. In an era when the U.S. justice system controls more than 7 million people, a narrative about redemption, justice and the reach of the law seems just as relevant as it was when it was first published 157 years ago.

Les Miserables debuts April 14 on PBS.