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Sundays, March 1 and 8 at 9 p.m. Masterpiece Classic: David Copperfield

(Rochester, NY) Masterpiece’s acclaimed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ beloved novel, based on his own difficult journey from boy to man, boasts an all-star cast headed by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) in his first television appearance. Also appearing: Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mona Lisa) as the ever-optimistic Mr. Micawber, Academy Award-winner Maggie Smith (A Room With a View, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) as David’s upstanding Aunt Betsey, and Ian McKellen (Harry Potter, Great Performances: King Lear) as the sadistic schoolmaster. The series originally aired in 2000. Masterpiece Classic: David Copperfield airs Sundays, March 1 and 8 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).

Part One airs Sunday, March 1 at 9 p.m. The story opens with David’s birth, which occurs shortly after the death of his father. Great Aunt Betsey arrives, eagerly anticipating a girl. Disappointed, she leaves in disgust, never to return. Young David’s happy childhood includes a memorable visit to his nanny Peggotty’s relatives, who live in a ship house on the coast. On his return, he finds his mother has married Mr. Murdstone, a stern disciplinarian. When David bites Murdstone during a beating, the boy is sent to a boarding school run by the severe Mr. Creakle. There, he falls under the protection of Steerforth, an older student. When David’s mother dies, Murdstone sends him to work at a sweatshop in London. Again, David finds a patron — this time Mr. Micawber, a profligate family man with whom he lodges. But Micawber is sent to debtor’s prison, and David is left homeless. Destitute, he walks to Dover, where he has heard his Aunt Betsey lives. She offers him a nurturing home, shared with her loopy lodger, Mr. Dick.

Part Two airs Sunday, March 8 at 9 p.m. David is residing with Aunt Betsey’s lawyer, Mr. Wickfield, and his daughter, Agnes, and apprenticed to another lawyer, Mr. Spenlow. Oblivious to Agnes’ charms, David begins courting Spenlow’s charming, flighty daughter, Dora. Unbeknownst to all, Wickfield’s fawning clerk, Uriah Heep, has his eye on Agnes and on Wickfield’s business. By chance, David encounters Steerforth and together they visit the ship house, occupied by Peggotty, her husband, Barkis, Peggotty’s brother, Daniel, his nephew, Ham, and Ham’s fiancée, Little Em’ly. When Steerforth convinces Em’ly to run away with him, Daniel pursues them through several countries. The villainous Heep ruins Wickfield, and Aunt Betsey as well. Micawber reenters the picture as Heep’s reluctant clerk. After Wickfield’s death, Dora and David marry, and he pursues a career as an author, but Dora soon dies. Micawber exposes Heep’s financial fraud, restoring Aunt Betsey’s wealth, and Daniel finally locates Em’ly, who has been abandoned by Steerforth. Just as David arrives at the ship house with news of Em’ly’s rescue, Ham dies in a storm while trying to rescue a drowning man — Steerforth. David and Agnes marry; the Micawbers, Daniel and Em’ly start a new life in Australia; and Aunt Betsey finally gets a niece.

For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/masterpiece.

Pictured: The young Daniel Radcliffe stars as David Copperfield with Bob Hoskins as Mr. Micawber.
Photo Credit: John Rogers/©BBC 1999

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