All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Helen Alderson

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

There are two ways to get through life: complain endlessly or just get through it. Though complaining has its place, it takes much less time and energy to just deal with the cards that life has dealt you.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name), Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) comes from a long line of Yorkshire farmers. Since the death of her mother, Helen has both taken the duties of farming and being the surrogate mother to her much younger sister Jenny (Imogene Clawson). Born and raised in this world, she is practical, intelligent, and just does what needs to be done. She is more than capable of getting behind the wheel of a tractor or rangling an unruly animal.

That does not mean that Helen is a tomboy who despises wearing dresses and putting on makeup. When the occasion arises, she is just as comfortable in a dress and heels as she is in overalls.

She is also the object of affection for two different men. When we originally meet Helen, she has been with Hugh Hulton (Matthew Lewis) for quite a few years. They have grown up together. The next natural step in their relationship is the ringing of wedding bells. Hugh comes from a wealthy family and would be able to provide for Helen and her family.

But there is someone else waiting in the wings. James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) is a newcomer to the area. He nearly instantly develops a crush on Helen and is devastated that she is spoken for. Though he respects the fact that she is in a relationship, James never wavers in his love for Helen. Eventually, Helen and Hugh go their separate ways. It takes some time, but James does eventually propose. She accepts and all appears well for their future.

But neither knows that World War II is waiting in the wings, threatening to turn their world upside down.

To sum it up: Though Helen is the romantic lead, she is not defined by the two men who want to be with her. She is her own woman who can clearly take care of herself and her family. It is that levelheadedness that allows modern women to relate to her but still keeps her grounded in the period that she lives in.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Mrs. Hall

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

For most of human history, women have been contained the roles of wives, mothers, and housekeepers. That does not mean, however, that within their own homes, they are powerless.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name) Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), whose first name we later learn is Audrey, has been the housekeeper for Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) for a number of years. In addition to cooking and housework, she helps him to run his veterinary practice.

Mrs. Hall is a widow whose son has maintained a distant relationship with his mother. Though she is a figurative mother to Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) and assistant Vet James Herriot Nicholas Ralph), she would prefer to be in her real son’s life. Balancing her out is Siegfried, who is the figurative father in the home, creating a unique chosen family.

She is calm, easygoing, and in control, while Siegfried is passionate, a little out there and a force of nature. Mrs. Hall is the one who convinces her boss (who at this point is more her friend/confidante) to give James a chance after he nearly botches his interview.

Though she has been married previously, that does not mean that romance is out of the question. A local man takes an interest in her. There is also a spark of something with Siegfried. But with World War II on the horizon, a new love may be the last thing on her mind.

To sum it up: Mrs. Hall is the glue of that household. Without her, the men who reside there would be hungry, dirty, smelly, and not able to do their jobs properly. Though she dwells within the traditional realm, her strength, warmth, and cool head makes her more than what she seems to be.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: James Herriot

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

One of the first great adventures as an adult is our first job. That experience (at least from my perspective) forever stays with us, regardless of how long our resumes become.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name), James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) is a newly licensed veterinarian who is eager to prove his worth in 1930s England. He arrives at the home and practice of Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), hoping that Dr. Farnon will hire him.

Dr. Farnon is quite a character and would test the patience of the most understanding of people. He nearly goes home without a job, but the housekeeper, Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) convinces her boss to give James a chance.

He is also helped by Siegfried’s carefree and sometimes less than practical younger brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse). He is the yin to James’s yang in terms of temperament, perspective, and professional outlook.

Over the course of his employment, James becomes a respected veterinarian, appreciated by his colleagues and the community. Though he has the option of returning home to Scotland, he stays in Yorkshire. He is also infatuated with Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton). But Helen is spoken for. Hugh Holton (Matthew Lewis) is a local boy who is the son of the landed gentry. Eventually, Helen and Hugh go their separate ways, opening the door for James’s wish to become reality. When we last saw James, he had it all. A solid career, a fiance, and a future.

But World War II is on the horizon. He doesn’t know it yet, but everything that he knows is about to change.

To sum it up: James is an everyman. He doesn’t want much. He wants a career he loves, a family to come home to, and a place in this world to call his own. He has all that and so much more. But before he can get there, he has to go through a few growing pains along the way.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Ridley Road Review

Hate, in all of its forms, is always around us. It is an unfortunate part of the human experience. Despite our advances in science, medicine, education, and technology, it remains ever-present.

The new Masterpiece series, Ridley Road (based on the book of the same name by Jo Bloom) premiered last weekend. The heroine of the series, Vivian Epstein (Agnes O’Casey) is the daughter of a Jewish family in England in the early 1960s. She is expected to live as her mother and grandmothers did before her: give up her job, marry the boy chosen for her, and take care of her husband and children. But Vivian wants to be more than a housewife and mother.

She follows her boyfriend Jack Morris (Tom Varey) to London. Jack is a part of the 62 group, an underground Jewish organization who are fighting against the growing fascism in the UK. Going undercover as a member of the neo-nazi group led by Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear), both Vivian and Jack play a dangerous game of going along with their new identities while trying to keep their relationship alive.

I am absolutely loving this series so far. It’s James Bond meets a love story with a feminist coming of age narrative and a background of combating prejudice. What makes the program for me is that our heroes are ordinary people. It is, I think a reminder that change does not always come from the top. It comes from the person on the street who sees a wrong and does what they can to right that wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Ridley Road airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM EST.

Regency Review Roundup: Sanditon and Bridgerton Season 2 Reviews

*There will be spoilers for Sanditon.

The Regency era is an interesting time in human history. Looking back, it is easy to see that, as a species. we are on the road to the modernity that is life today. But we are also still clinging to the rules and social structure of previous generations.

Bridgerton

After a year and a half wait, season two of Bridgerton premiered last weekend on Netflix. It’s been nine months since the narrative of season one ended. Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett (Phoebe Dyvenor and Rege-Jean Page, who decided to move onto other projects) are happily married and have a baby boy. The oldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) has decided it is his time to settle down. Among the eligible women of the ton, he chooses Edwina Sharma (Charitha Chandran). But before they can walk down the aisle, he has to get through her overprotective older sister, Kate (Simone Ashley). She is tough, smart, and unwilling to compromise on whom she sees as her future brother-in-law. The problem is that there is something between Anthony and Kate that cannot be ignored.

If last season one was hot, this season has the fire of several volcanoes exploding at the same time. The chemistry between Ashley and Bailey is intense. The enemies to lovers/slow-burn narrative is so perfect that I would recommend that anyone who wants to write a good romance novel watch this series. It’s that good.

Sanditon

Its been nine months since the audience has spent time with the denizens of Sanditon. After the death of her first love, Sydney Parker (Theo James), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) has returned to the seaside town and the Parkers. Bringing her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham) with her, Charlotte reunites with old friends while making new male acquaintances. Among them are Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos) and Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).

With her usual tenacity and intelligence, Charlotte is trying to move on with her life. But she is still grieving (as I suspect the viewers are as well) for what might have been, had things gone in another direction. As much as we all miss Sydney, I feel like this is opening the door for new opportunities for her in both the romantic and career arenas (as much as a woman could have back then). Akin to Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) dying in a car crash at the end of the third season of Downton Abbey, it was a heartbreaking loss. But I feel like if we look at it from a modern perspective, this unexpected change is normal. Not everyone spends their life with the first person they fell in love with. It sometimes takes a few years and a few relationships to find your other half.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Bridgerton is available for streaming on Netflix. Sanditon airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM.

Best New TV Shows of 2021

*I apologize for the delay in posting. I should have written this before New Year’s Eve.

  1. Loki: Tom Hiddleston shines once more as Loki, the complicated immortal who has become much more than the standard antagonist. Forced into new circumstances, he goes on a journey that forever changes him.
  2. The Wonder Years: This reboot of the beloved 1980’s/1990’s series is just as poignant as its predecessor. The choice of making the main character and his family African-American only adds to its relevancy.
  3. Law & Order: Organized Crime: This spinoff of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit starring Chris Meloni as returning Detective Elliot Stabler is a thrilling and spine tingling hour of television.
  4. Ordinary Joe: This new NBC series is the story of one man and three distinct life paths before him. Told concurrently and using different colors for each decision, is is a reminder of how one choice can affect the rest of our lives.
  5. Impeachment: American Crime Story: The latest chapter of this long running F/X series focuses on the affair between Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and former President Clinton (Clive Owen) and the impeachment trial that followed. Instead of focusing on Clinton, the story is about the women who were directly affected by his less than honorable actions.
  6. WandaVision: This first foray by the MCU via DisneyPlus is everything it promised to be. Wanda Maxmioff and Vision (Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany) are living in family sitcom wedded bliss. But it not what it seems to be. With a star making turn by Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, this series is a must see.
  7. All Creatures Great and Small: Ths unexpectedly Masterpeice/PBS series is adorable and charming. A rookie vetenarian starts his career in rural Yorkshire in the 1930’s and grows in unexpected ways. The new season starts tonight at 9PM ET/ 8PM CT.
  8. Atlantic Crossing: This second Masterpeice/PBS series tells the story of the friendship/supposed affair between Franklin Delanor Roosevelt and Crown Princess Martha of Sweden during World War II. Forgotten for nearly a century, this tale of one woman’s drive to save her nation is truly worth watching.
  9. The Book of Boba Fett: This latest entry into the Star Wars universe from DisneyPlus just premiered on December 29th. Though only two episodes have been released, it is already asking questions that are begging for answers.
  10. Behind Her Eyes: Based on the book by Sarah Pinborough, this six part Netflix series about a married man’s affair with his secretary has a delicious ending that is jaw dropping and completely out of left field. Few endings have wowed me as this did.
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Around the World in 80 Days Review

When we travel, we do more than step out of our comfortable bubbles. We see the world from another perspective and perhaps learn from that perspective.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, Around the World in 80 Days, is an eight-episode miniseries based on the Jules Verne book of the same name. The program stars David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, Ibrahim Koma as Passepartout, and Leonie Benesch as Abigail “Fix” Fortescue. Their goal (as explained by the title), is to travel to different parts of the globe and return to England within 80 days of their departure date.

To be clear, I have not read the book. I have heard of it, but it has yet to be on my TBR list. This review is based solely on the television program.

The problem is that whatever it is that should hook me in is missing. Maybe it’s because I’m not really a fan of Verne or his books. Or maybe it’s that I was just bored.

Do I recommend it? No.

Around the World in 80 Days airs on PBS on Sunday nights at 8PM.

Flashback Friday: Masterpiece (1971-Present)

Good TV is sometimes hard to find. It’s easy to turn on a reality show or a rerun that you’ve seen a dozen times over.

In 1971, Masterpiece premiered on PBS. Importing British drama from the UK to the US for fifty years, this program has been a hit with audiences for decades.

Masterpiece has been my Sunday night must see TV for quite a few years now. Most of their programming I find to be intelligent, entertaining, and perhaps a bit educational without realizing it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Atlantic Crossing Review

A mother’s love for her children and a royal’s love of their country is one and the same.

The new PBS/Masterpiece historical drama, Atlantic Crossing, premiered last night. Based on a true story, it starts in 1939. Martha, the Crown Princess of Norway (Sofia Helin) is touring the United States with her husband, Olav, the Crown Prince of Norway (Tobias Santelmann). One of the events on their itinerary is having lunch with the President and First Lady, Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt (Kyle MacLachlan and Harriet Sansom Harris). FDR seems to be taken by the Princess.

A year later, Martha’s idyllic life ends World War II explodes and the Germans invade Norway. While her husband and father-in-law stay protect the nation, Martha and her children first escape to her native Sweden before traveling to the United States. Taking refuge within the walls of the White house, she start to advocate for her native land. This advocacy could be damaging in two equally important areas: her marriage and the tenuous world politics of the era.

The first episode is absolutely brilliant. Helin is perfectly cast as Martha, who could have easily been a shrinking violet, relying on the men around her. But she is smart, tough, and passionate. I wasn’t sure about the casting of MacLachlan and Sansom Harris (who also played the same role in the Netflix series Hollywood) as FDR and Eleanor. But upon seeing the full scene, the spiritual representations of these giants of American history seem to be so far pretty good.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Atlantic Crossing airs on PBS Sunday night at 9PM.

The Long Song Pilot Review

Historical fiction is more than just a story based on facts. It has the ability to make the modern person think about where we have come and where we are going.

The new three part miniseries, The Long Song (based on the novel of the same name by the late author Andrea Levy), premiered last night on PBS. July (Tamara Lawrance) was born a slave on the island of Jamaica in the 19th century. She is taken as a child from her mother to work as a personal maid for Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Atwell) and given the new name of Marguerite. Caroline is petty, selfish, and self-serving.

When the slaves start to revolt and talk of freedom, things start to change for both July and Caroline. That change is represented by the new overseer, Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden).

Like many Americans, I was only taught about slavery within the United States. But I was not entirely aware about slaves that were kept by Brits living and working in Jamaica. I enjoyed the first episode. Caroline is a character that is similar to Scarlett O’Hara (aka, you love to hate her), played to perfection by Atwell. Lawrance is brilliant as July, continually outwitting her mistress. The brief introduction of Robert Goodwin (Lowden) toward the end of the episode is just enough to stir the plot up further, making me at least want to watch the second and third episodes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Long Song airs on PBS on Sundays at 10PM.

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