Originally telecast by the BBC from January 22 to March 5, 1978, The Mayor of Casterbridge was a seven-part adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy. Alan Bates played the title character, Michael Henchard, the wealthy and popular mayor of the Wessex community of Casterbridge. Things had not always gone so well for Michael, however; some 20 years earlier, in a drunken stupor, he had auctioned off his woebegone wife Susan (Anne Stallybrass) to a sailor named Newsom at a traveling carnival. Unexpectedly, Susan resurfaced in Casterbridge, accompanied by her now-grown daughter Elizabeth-Jane (Janet Maw). Demanding financial assistance from Michael, Susan tells him that Elizabeth-Jane is his own child, and that she will "make trouble" for him unless he cooperates. The strain of the situation drives Michael back into the bottle, while his onetime assistant Farfae (Jack Galloway) not only takes over as Mayor, but also claims Elizabeth-Jane as his sweetheart. The 11th-hour appearance of Susan's common-law husband Newsom (Richard Owens), long believed dead, results in a number of startling and mortifying developments. After its initial British TV run, The Mayor of Casterbridge was shown in America as part of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre anthology beginning September 3, 1978.
by Hal Erickson synopsis