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Picks and Pans Review: Daniel Deronda

updated 04/07/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/07/2003 01:00AM

PBS (Sun.-Mon., March 30-31, 9 p.m. ET)

The trouble with this Masterpiece Theatre version of George Eliot's 1870s novel is that the title character is a bit of a stick. High-minded, darkly handsome Daniel (Hugh Dancy) is the adopted son of an English nobleman (Edward Fox), though his biological parentage is a mystery. He tends to stand on the edge of scenes looking painfully sincere. After Daniel saves the life of Mirah (Jodhi May), a young Jewish singer, the question keeps arising whether he too might have been born a Jew. The more he says no, the more you expect he'll find the answer is yes. The resolution of this plotline comes out of left field, and it's awfully long in arriving.

You'll have far more interest in Gwendolen (Romola Garai), the beauty who beguiles Daniel but winds up wed to sadistic Henleigh (Hugh Bonneville). Garai makes her character maddening but hard to resist, and Bonneville luxuriates in his villainous role.

BOTTOM LINE: Spotty drama

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