It probably feels like about a decade ago since David Tennant was announced to front a new limited series adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days to air on the BBC. The news was initially announced in December 2019, with Slim Film + Television and Federation joining an international set of co-production partners. At the time, the BBC had already boarded the series, with France Télévisions, Germany's ZDF, and Italy's RAI planning to air it across Europe. The new adaptation of the Jules Verne classic of the same name (in French: Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours) would film in South Africa starting in February 2020.
But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down filming in South Africa in March 2020 and grinding production to a halt for several months, causing the series to miss its initial planned airdate, which was to be a holiday-timed release at the end of 2020. The series regrouped in November, and filming resumed, with little news about the series until now. In the intervening time, PBS joined the list of distributors, and the first look at the new eight-part series comes courtesy of the Masterpiece brand.
Check out Tennant's turn as the English gentleman-turned-adventurer Phileas Fogg in the classic 1873 adventure.
Around the World In 80 Days is a story adapted for the big and small screen multiple times, starting in the silent film era in 1919. The most famous is the 1956 live-action film from United Artists, starring David Nivens, which took home five Academy Awards when it was released. Disney did a 2004 remake with Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan as his valet, which veered wildly from the source material to make it more of an American comedy. There have only been two TV miniseries adaptations before this one: A 1972 Australian version and a 1989 U.K. miniseries that starred Pierce Brosnan just as he was heading into his James Bond years.
Tennant stars in this new version of the story alongside French actor Ibrahim Koma (Mother Is Wrong) as Fogg's valet, Passepartout, and Leonie Benesch (Babylon Berlin) as journalist Abigail "Fix" Fortescue. Other recurring actors include Jason Watkins (The Crown) and Peter Sullivan (Poldark), with guest star roles for Anthony Flanagan (Gentleman Jack), Shivaani Ghai (Batwoman), Lindsay Duncan (A Discovery Of Witches), Dolly Wells (Dracula), Richard Wilson (Merlin), Facial Elkihel (The Missing), Gary Beadle (Grantchester) and Giovanni Scifoni (Leonardo).
The new series comes from Ashley Pharoah, the creator of the cult hit Life On Mars, along with Caleb Ranson (Midsomer Murders). The eight-part series was directed by Steve Barron (The Durrells), Brian Kelly (Downton Abbey), and the late Charles Beeson (Fringe). Though it is currently being billed as a limited series, Pharoah is already hinting there could be more seasons to come if the show does well. She recently told Deadline the writing team is in "the early stages of wondering" if it would be possible to "[take] those three characters and doing a different adventure with them."
Around the World in 80 Days will premiere at Canneseries in early October, with holiday-timed releases expected for the U.K. and European airings. Masterpiece has not yet set a release date for PBS. However, fans can probably expect the new adaptation to arrive over here a little later, in early 2022.