Sanditon - Andrew Davies' fun adaptation of an unfinished classic might have Austen fans in a spin

Rose Williams stars as Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon
Rose Williams stars as Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a TV channel in possession of an autumn schedule, must be in want of a period drama.

Yes, that sound you can hear is Jane Austen rotating rapidly in her grave, but then she may already have been rocking a bit after Sanditon (ITV, Sundays, 9pm) aired this week.

Based on an unfinished Austen novel, Sanditon is the story of Charlotte Heywood, taken from her yeoman farmer father and family to the town of the title, where good-natured – but slightly misguided – rich gent Tom Parker is spending all his money trying to turn a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable bathing resort.

Writer Andrew Davies gave us a bare-chested and dripping Colin Firth in his BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but here he gave us suggestions of racism and even a hint of incest.

And then there was the skinny dipping and sex-in-the-woods scenes, which will have given the more consumptive Austen obsessives a swooning attack.

So it’s no surprise that Charlotte’s father warns her about the seaside: “No one quite knows who anyone else is, where they come from, what they’re up to... the normal rules of conduct are often relaxed, and even flouted.”

He’s obviously been on a stag do in Blackpool.

Davies is clearly having a whale of time, layering Austen’s bare bones of a story with every type of romance novel archetype, with everything dialled up to 11.

You can’t be quite sure if it’s serious or a parody, with Anne Reid being particularly twinkly as the battleaxe Lady Denham.

But it’s all terrific fun, powered along by a fiddle-de-dee folky soundtrack, and by the time they’ve gone all Adam Ant in Prince Charming at the inevitable ball, you’ve surrendered to its charms.

Period dramas, and The Great British Bake-Off (Channel 4, Tuesdays, 8pm) – it must be autumn. It’s the usual stuff – melting icing, torrential rain, double entendres – and a comfort as summer ends.

Sink or Swim (Channel 4, Tuesdays, 9.30pm) sees celebs overcome their fear of water to swim the Channel in aid of Stand Up 2 Cancer. Alex Brooker is clearly the star of this show, and an inspiration.