Hooray! Finally, we’re back to having some decent “period drama” to watch on a Sunday evening. Other than sport, Sunday evening TV has been dire for weeks. So welcome back, Anne Lister and Ann Walker, and Shibden Hall.
This must be an extremely demanding role for Suranne Jones, because Anne Lister is in practically every scene. And she spends half those scenes striding about very energetically, in between corresponding with her ex, dealing with her business affairs, managing her household, catching up with her relatives, dealing with Ann’s relatives and actually spending some time with Ann!
Even when she’s taking time out from all of that, she’s addressing the viewer. That’s a reminder that this is an adaptation of Anne Lister’s diaries – and another result of that is that some of the other characters sometimes seem a bit caricatured, because we’re seeing them through Anne’s eyes, not in a more balanced, rounded way. Having said that, a lot of Dickensian characters and even some of Austen’s characters are deliberately caricatured, so it’s something that doesn’t seem out of place in a drama set in the 19th century.
It would have been nice to see more about Ann Walker, though. Anne Lister seemed to be very comfortable in her own skin, even if other people weren’t always very comfortable with her personality and behaviour, but Ann Walker suffered badly from depression and anxiety. It’s thought that that was partly because, unlike Anne Lister, she found it a struggle to reconcile her faith and her sexuality, and that’s something which it might have been interesting for the series to explore, especially with all the talk at the moment about the upset caused by conversion therapy.
However, it’s just great to have a decent period drama in the Sunday 9pm slot again, at last, and particularly great that it’s a northern drama – OK, it’s Yorkshire and not Lancashire or the Lakes 🙂 , but Rievaulx Abbey looked mighty fine in the scenes set there, and it’s always good to see the hard-working, world-leading 19th century industrial north on screen – and that it’s female-led. And there’ve even been stories of people saying that the first series helped them to accept themselves. No-one’s even making a huge big deal of the fact that this is a series about a same sex relationship: the comments mainly seem to be about Anne’s constant striding (she really does do a lot of striding!) and the locations used for filming.
It’s not exactly relaxing watching, because Anne is on the go practically all the time! Even the Rievaulx Abbey sketching party scene was a bit hectic, because Anne was striding about whilst the others were sketching! But I wasn’t bored for a single moment, and nothing about it was unconvincing either. A really good hour’s TV. Welcome back, Gentleman Jack!