Ah, this was wonderful! I was a bit apprehensive about watching it, because it can be weirdly upsetting if a remake of a childhood favourite TV series or film doesn’t work; but it was spot on, and exactly the sort of TV we need at the moment. Gentle drama, gentle comedy, northern landscapes and – although it wasn’t until the end – James Herriot with his hand stuck up a cow! And, along with that, nostalgia for watching the original programme as a kid growing up in the ’80s, and also anemoia (good word, that) for a time which was well before I came along but which I’ve heard so much about. We were reminded from the start that this was set during the Depression, not in some sort of idyll, whereas the original series seemed more timeless. I can remember watching some of the original episodes with my grandparents, who were much the same age of Alf Wight. Most of that generation are gone now, and it’ll be interesting to see how well this goes down with a younger audience.
The landscapes haven’t changed much, though. Well, the towns and villages have: Thirsk and Askrigg, where the original series was filmed, are deemed to look too modern now, so Grassington’s been used instead. I haven’t been there for ages: maybe I should go before it gets inundated with TV tourists! And that big place you pass on the right as you head towards Skipton from Boundary Mill has been used as Mrs Pumphrey’s house … although we haven’t actually met Mrs Pumphrey yet. All those narrow roads with stone walls at the side! I once decided that it would be a good idea to drive from Middleham to Sedbergh. Thirty miles, on A roads. Easy! Er, no. A roads across the Dales are not exactly like A roads in Manchester. Or those in Glasgow, as young James found out as the programme got started and he ended up in the middle of nowhere, in the rain … but, of course, it all turned out OK in the end.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the first series of the original All Creatures Great and Small. I’d only have been three when it was shown, and it must have been repeated umpteen times but I can’t remember seeing it. I remember getting very caught up in the romance between Calum and Deirdre, but that was a good ten years in. Anyway, we got James meeting Siegfried, and Mrs Hall, and some of the locals – including, of course, Helen, who was delightfully feisty and independent. And getting drunk in the pub! The Yorkshire accents were all pretty convincing, which was good. I’m still getting over the mess that Nigel Lindsay made of Robert Peel’s Lancashire accent in Victoria! And it was all just so lovely… there hasn’t really been anything with that combination of drama, humour and scenery since The Durrells finished, and this has got the added bonus of ’80s nostalgia as well (also, the characters are likeable rather than irritating!).
So, well done, Channel 5! This was great. Now, if you could just move it to a Saturday evening or Sunday evening slot, rather than hiding it away in a Tuesday evening slot, we’ll be sorted! But this is great, at any time!