Skip to content

I’ll be honest: I’m not really very sold on the new Around the World in 80 Days adaptation (currently airing on Masterpiece; thank you Darlene Shiley and Viewers Like You). It’s a little bit, hmmm, junky and knockabout and I’m not quite sure if it was filmed pre-pandemic or not, but some scenes that should really have a cast of—if not thousands—at least hundreds look more like they’re populated by a cast of, oh, let’s say tens.

The part of me that is on board with the adaptation, however, is largely there because of the liberties it takes with the book (which would normally have me arching an eyebrow—and if you have ever seen me do so, you know what a savage indictment it can be). This production leaves the book’s basic premise intact … and that’s about it. Phileas Fogg (David Tennant) now has a sad secret and Fix (in this version, along for the ride as friend rather than foe) is now a Lady Journalist (don’t @ me: they might even refer to her as that at one point), and Passepartout is Black and finally has a backstory of his own, something the book sorely lacks. 

They all end up in a balloon basket together, as every memory you have of this story absolutely insists. The first episode’s the least interesting, mainly because it crams so much in (including the balloon) that you end it a little whiplashed. Their bags get stolen so many times that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time wondering about the source of the many different getups they keep parading around in.

But stick with it if you’re not deeply engaged by some other program right now; it has some interesting bits. For example: the episode that centers around Jane Digby (who was a real person, here played by the immortal Lindsay Duncan) will send you down a research rabbithole that’ll have you wondering, “Where’s the miniseries about her?” 

I do think the story still has problems. It’s tough to watch a contemporary adaptation of a 19th century adventure story that visits a handful of European colonies—Hong Kong and India among them—without addressing the issue of colonization in any serious way, though almost all of the villains are definitely stand-ins for colonizers from Europe.

There are quite a few terrible (and terribly funny) reviews of it out there—definitely tiptoe through a few of them to see if this is your cup of tea.

I’m caught up through the Hong Kong episode, with the US chapter on the near horizon, and I am quite interested to see how they iron out the very worst stereotyping in the book: the American West bits. Again: it’s not great. But I’m fifty percent invested in eighty days. So I think it’s worth forty of your whatevers so far.

About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • It sounds as if it may be based more on the 80s kids cartoon series version than the actual book…

  • Hmmmm..having only seen the David Niven as Phileas Fogg version, I may just have to check this out. Thanks, DG!

    • I enjoyed this series. It was not true to the book but thoroughly engaging in it’s own right.

  • But David Tennant

    • Exactly!

    • No! I think Tom Baker set the tone for all the playful, slightly insane modern Doctor Who’s.

    • He’s the reason I’m watching.

      • Oh yes, David Tennant for no other reason. Still the best Doctor Who, of course.

        • Am I the only one who still thinks Tom Baker was the best?

  • Yeah, we couldn’t give “80 Days” any more than 2 of our days. It just appeared to be cobbled together and not in a good way:) “All Things Great and Small”, on the other hand is simply gorgeous. Also, “The Gilded Age” on HBO Max is good.

    • I’m sure it is but my fond memories of the first series make this difficult to like for me. I don’t want to have the characters liked ruined.

      • I felt the same way at first, but this version of All Creatures is very good too. They are different, but both are wonderful.

        • That’s what my friendl said.I just don’t need ‘different’. The chianges in the characters may be interesting in their own right,but in this instance the older version is what I’ll stick with. So it’s not a criticism of the new series, just a personall preference to leave well enough alone in this instance.

    • I could listen to the theme song for “All Creatures Great and Small” on a loop, it’s that calming and green and has vests. And “The Gilded Age” is engaging. And the clothes. When you’ve lived in baggy torn jeans for the last 2 years, the swirl of a dress would be interesting.

    • Agree. I just love All Creatures Great and Small.

  • I’m watching but not loving it. It has the same problems as “Miss Scarlett and the Duke” very much an overlay of the 21st century style and tone on a 19th century story.

  • I too am a little disappointed with 80 Days…but I am still watching as it precedes “All Creatures, Great and Small” which I love! Ah, the knitwear in that one is fabulous!

    • I agree that the knitwear in All Creatures Great and Small is fabulous. I’m hoping there will be a knitting book based on the show. 🙂

  • David Tennant in all things.

  • Love “savage indictment”. So clear.

  • Watching for David Tennant. What do you think of Vienna Blood?

    • I agree about David Tennant. He is the main reason I started watching the series. I loved him as Dr Who. But I keep changing my mind as to which actor is the best Dr. Wish I could recall the name but I saw him in a very strong role as a man who’s wife and child, I think, were kidnapped? killed? Its been a few years ago.

      I think I may have missed episode 3 and can’t get to it on our PBS system. You are right, DG. There has been lots of stolen luggage. LOL

      One of the scenes I liked was when Fogg lit the oil in the desert. Very dramatic.
      It may not be as well done as most things on PBS but I am enjoying the characters none the less.

      I’m going to have to look up Jane Digby!!!

      All Creatures… is a wonderful show! Read the books as a younger person. This really brings it to life.

      I too never saw 1st season of Vienna Blood but I like it a lot!

      Does anyone else watch Professor T?

      DG, love your columns!

      And I agree with Carol Johnson about the Knit To This columns. I haven’t looked for everything written up and some I don’t have access to, but I enjoy hearing about programs, podcasts, etc, that I may not otherwise learn about.

      • I like Professor T. Both the original Belgian version with subtitles, and the English remake.

    • Also watching for David Tennant. The whole Sunday evening block is my way to relax before starting a new work week on Monday. I wasn’t sure about Vienna Blood because I missed the first season but I’m really enjoying it and will have to go back and watch from the beginning.

  • David Tennant….

  • Great TV watching for knitting. You don’t have to pay so close attention and no one will cuss at you while you are knitting. I must admit the first one was tedious, but has gotten easier.

  • I’m enjoying 80 Days, but I’ve really enjoyed reading these comments mentioning David Tennant

  • Well DG, I’m up to the same point as you are: the Hong Kong episode. And I have many of the same questions about their clothing as you. Seriously! How do they all keep finding such immaculate clothes from those few bags (which Passepartout has to carry — and there is a whole commentary on servants and especially how blacks were treated that is alluded to but not directly addressed). However, I keep watching because: David Tennant! To tell you the truth, I’d watch almost anything he is in. Broadchurch anyone? Also, I’ve always wanted to go around the world and it is fun seeing different areas.
    And I too want to see the mini series about Jane Digby. Now there is an awesome woman!
    So onward around the world. And its good knitting time!

  • I also wondered about all their beautifully pressed outfits after losing luggage and all the dust. Yes love David T, scenery, settings .

  • Same. Same. I keep watching hoping for . . . I don’t know . . . something to really pull me in to the series. And yes!, what is up with clothes and the luggage that seems to appear from nowhere.

  • I agree completely. I have actually stopped watching episodes thinking “well, that’s enough of that for now!” I will probably finish the series but in bits and pieces.

  • We gave up after one episode. While I love David Tennant, his character is so unappealing in this version. While driving our son to grad school a few years ago (OK, 15) we listened to the book read by the great Jim Dale and are now spoiled for anything else, except maybe David Niven. I’ll just watch Dr Who and Good Omens again.

    • Phileas Fogg learns from his experiences and becomes more appealing. David Tennant’s expression of this is wonderful, but I know how irritating it is when a movie deviates from a favourite book.

  • I love this show! I don’t see any of the things that were mentioned here and have not watched some of the others that were said to be great! To each his own, but with that said, I look forward to this email,” watch this while you knit” every week, as it has really expanded my listening,watching,and podcast venues! Keep it coming!

  • I’m loving it, especially the music. And I’m all in for knowing more about Jane.

  • So where IS the series about Jane Digby? She sounds completely fascinating!! Better than Philias Fogg by a long shot.

  • I’m a huge David Tennant fan and loved reading Verne as a child so I was very excited when I heard this series was coming. However I am disappointed. I realize the colonialism was going to be problematic, but the story and characters are so changed that I hardly recognize it. Most distressing is Phineas Fogg’s transformation from an unflappable and resourceful traveler into an incompetent puddle of emotion. The whole series up to this point is heavy and joyless. A lighter touch with a more accurate telling of the story was needed.

  • I’m a longtime traveler on the “I love me some David Tennant” bandwagon, but I only made it halfway through the first episode. It just didn’t hold my interest. I quite like that Fix is a Lady Journalist in this version, though … I hope that was an intentional tribute to Nellie Bly!

  • Maybe the luggage is like the Tardis-bigger on the inside than the outside. 🙂
    I guess I’m in the minority, but I have to say that I’m enjoying it.

  • You had me at David Tennant.

  • I look forward to What to Watch. Even if I don’t want to watch the featured program, there are always other interesting recommendations. I am checking out Vienna Blood and am searching for a biography of Jane Digby.

  • I’m a bit stymied by this series, usually I love these things. Will probably stick with it regardless. Someone mentioned Professor T. The Flemish version with English subtitles is my all time favorite, please watch it! All Creatures Great and Small, lovely, heartwarming, I’ve watched the full series several times. Maybe Jane Digby will get her own Masterpiece series.
    On another note, try as I may I cannot make my color choices work for the Lopi Daytripper, have resorted to just grabbing a random ball out of all Lopi on hand – 9 color choices – that isn’t working either. I was trying to break out of knitting and wearing only non colors, success is elusive. I’ll pop over to the Lounge to see what’s what there. Sigh.
    Mr Strong, I wish you well in creating your own personal map! Very courageous and ambitious are you, sir. Love your posts, you are a ray of witty fun sunshine and a wonder in your own right.

  • I’m so sorry you are only 40% invested. I am 100% enjoying it. Lean back, try not to think of the original version. Think of it instead as a whole new creation with surprises around every corner. I am so enjoying the emergence of the supporting characters as they help steer this production onward. Give it a chance, open your mind to the possibilities. Sigh. I can’t wait for the next installment.

  • I was wary because I loved the original so much but I am really enjoying the new version. The characters have more depth than in the original, but that’s fine. In fact, because it’s so different I’m enjoying it for itself and not making comparisons. I think the acting is excellent, especially Passeportou, the settings are lively, and I would recommend that everyone give it a try.
    I went back to see the original again I was 6 when it came out and vividly remember seeing it in one of the big, downtown movie theatres with my mother. My friend and I loved it and I was happy to find that I still do’. One of the best parts is recognizing all the great actors who play bit parts all the way through it! So go and enjoy them both and don’t worry about picking things apart.

  • I remember seeing the film when it first came out. I guess this shows my age but I remember how exciting it was to go to one of these BIG films. They even had picture programs. I will give this a try.

  • What “original version” indeed? I saw the David Niven et al in cinerama in a big old historic movie theater in San Francisco decades ago and loved it. So this time around I bought the Jules Verne book, in a lovely edition reproducing the original English translation and illustrations. BUT, THE TEXT IS APPALLING. Racist, stereotyped, and not a balloon to be seen at all! As for David Tennant: his “Slings and Arrows” is a magnificent and hugely entertaining intro to the biggest and best of Shakespeare.

  • I’m enjoying it, taking it at face value….. as long as Fogg gets to give his nemesis an enthusiastic knuckle sandwich in the last episode, I’m good with it.

    • Amen!

  • Darlene Marcos Shirley and viewers like me. Love all the middle names. You do make me laugh.

  • Yes, the out-and-out racism and colonialism, and misogyny are horrifying in this day and age. Why would they choose to continue amplifying these awful behaviors? I’m pretty disappointed with Masterpiece and their commitment to stories of white elites as if they are heroes.

  • I keep seeing comments about David Tennant and he definitely was one reason I gave the show a try. But Kobe Ibrahim, as Passepartou, is giving a stellar performance which is worth the price of admission all on it’sown.

    • I apologize! While trying to praise his acting,I completely mangled theman’s name, which is Ibrahim Koba. I am dealing with long COVID right now so I will blame the accompanying brain fog!

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping