Welcome back Jane Austen’s new Sanditon

Friday: Jane Austen’s Sanditon - (ITV, 9pm)

At one stage, it was looking like this drama wouldn’t be back for a second season.

Following disappointing viewing figures in the UK, and despite a successful run in the US, ITV decided to pull the plug on the show based on Austen’s final, unfinished manuscript.

However, the cancellation ignited a fan movement and the formation of a group called the Sanditon Sisterhood, who campaigned with petitions on social media for its return. Their wishes were eventually granted and a second season of Regency-era period saga set in an upcoming seaside resort was jointly commissioned by PBS and BritBox.

Sadly, for the actor and character’s many admirers, Theo James isn’t back as Sidney Parker this time around.

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The first series largely revolved around whether Sidney and Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), would become an item. And although the opening series concluded with them admitting their feelings for each other, Sidney committed to marrying another woman.

It was an unhappy ending, uncommon for a Jane Austen story.

James released a statement saying: “Although I relished playing Sidney, for me, I’ve always maintained that his journey concluded as I wanted it to.

“The broken fairy-tale ending between Charlotte and Sidney is different, unique and so interesting to me and I wish the cast and crew of Sanditon every success with future series.”

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This season, we will see Charlotte heartbroken, grieving, and certainly not looking for a husband.

However, the army’s arrival in Sanditon brings the prospect of more possible romances, and our heroine soon meets two new potential suitors.

There’s Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), a mysterious resident with a complex past, while starkly different is self-assured war hero Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).

Charlotte’s spirited younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham), is also introduced into the drama and she quickly finds finds herself infatuated with the charming Captain William Carter (Maxim Ays). Meanwhile, Georgina (Crystal Clarke) is keen to forge her own identity, and stubbornly unwilling to find a husband, especially one who would only be after her fortune.

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However, a meeting with free-spirited and flamboyant Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos), the town’s new resident artist, may change her opinion about marriage.

The series opens tonight on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where we quickly discover that Sidney has died. Meanwhile, Charlotte has been living at home and returns to Tom and Mary Parker’s with Alison in tow.

Georgina, on the other hand, is leading a boycott of sugar in the town, hoping that plantation owners who enslave people will be forced to change their ways. Plus, Esther is back – she’s staying with her aunt Lady Denham (Anne Reid) and still married to Lord Babington (Mark Stanley), but she’s having fertility difficulties.

Also returning is the vile Edward (Jack Fox), who is now part of the army. He’s bought himself a commission, despite racking up gambling debts, and when he sees Lady Denham, he promises he won’t harass his stepsister Esther. But will he stick to his word?

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If you’re a fan of this show, you’ll be thrilled to know that the confusion over its future seems to have been resolved for now – a third season is on its way sometime in 2023.