A Dickens mashup on PBS

“Dickensian,” airing and streaming on PBS.

What if the characters of many of Charles Dickens’ novels moved in the same social circles in a sort of six degrees of separation way?

That’s the brilliant conceit, brilliantly executed, behind “Dickensian,” airing and streaming on PBS. If you know the novels, you’ll marvel at the way creator Tony Jordan has threaded their backstories together and savor the inside baseball stuff. If you don’t, you can enjoy the 20-part series as a whodunit, actually more like a whodidn’t.

Miserly moneylender Jacob Marley (“A Christmas Carol”) is dead, again, and this time it looks like foul play. The case won’t be easy for Inspector Bucket (“Bleak House”), because as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Marley’s less-than-loving business partner, tells him, the challenge isn’t to find who killed Marley but rather who didn’t want to. There’s their long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit, who’s just had his wages docked and who’s oldest son Peter is smitten with Little Nell (“The Old Curiosity Shop”), whose grandfather owed Marley a lot of money.

Then there’s Nancy (“Oliver Twist”), a local prostitute, whom Marley abuses during one of her visits, angering her hair-trigger pimp, Bill Sikes.

But what of Meriwether Compeyson and Arthur Havisham (“Great Expectations”), who are plotting to rob Arthur’s half-sister Amelia of her inheritance by having Compeyson woo and ruin her, and Amelia’s friend, Honoria Barbary (“Bleak House”), whose family is in dire financial straits?

“The chase is on,” Compeyson tells Arthur as Dickens’ quirky characters move toward their novelistic destinies. And we are thrilled to be along for the ride.

For more, visit https://www.pbs.org/show/dickensian/

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