Don't let the possibly seeming serious backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars (the same time period we have found Horatio Hornblower before) dissuade you from watching the 1998 BBC Vanity Fair. Don't for that matter, let the fact that it's a period piece miniseries dissuade you either. It's fun, intelligent and very wicked.
Becky Sharp, the central heroine, is really more of a sociopath than a shining example of feminine virtue. She's smart but can be cruel, in the modern day she might even be the kind of character who's be pretty fun to hang out with until, of course, she stabs you in the back, steals your man and all of your jewelry.
Delicately pretty Natasha Little is expert in the role, a role that Reese Witherspoon took to the American silver screen with very little effect. While Little's career is pretty big in Britain, I've surprisingly never seen her before. The rest of the cast, however is far more familiar, most notably Brix Picks hunk Nathaniel Parker, Philip Glenister – whose been in just about everything from the aforementioned Hornblower to Cranford to State of Play, and David Bradley who you'll recognize from the Harry Potter movies.
Also a familiar name is Andrew Davies, known as the master of the adaptation, his contribution to television is staggering. He has written among other things: The House of Cards series, the widely accepted best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the rollicking Moll Flanders, The Way We Live Now, Tipping the Velvet, and the excellent recent Bleak House. I am happy to report that it's announced that he'll soon be adapting The Pallisers, a miniseries I love, but have yet to recommend because I just haven't had the time yet to delve into its twelve discs.
Vanity Fair is a bit shorter, but still boasts a six hour running time. I have only seen the first few hours, but honestly, it's so diverting that the time has been flying by.