PBS’s Idyllic “All Creatures Big and Small” Restores Our Trusted Faith in Humanity

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Even as I watched the animated introduction to PBS Masterpiece’s “All Creatures Big and Small”, which features a small automobile driving through lush green hills dotted with fluffy sheep, I felt my jaw loosen and my shoulders drop just a little. little. The series, which is based on the beloved Alf Wight books (under the pen name James Herriot), promises to be extremely comfortable from the start – the TV equivalent of a chunky sweater knitted from yarn. oat color.
But “All Creatures” isn’t just about being enjoyable in a completely British way. Going through the entire seven-episode series is such an amount of heart, the kind that ensures kindness and decency inevitably win, that it’ll leave you longing for better times, especially amid the unprecedented stress that the last year brought us.

The story, like the 1978 television adaptation, centers on James Herriot (played in this version by newcomer Nicholas Ralph), an upbeat young Scotsman who finds himself working as a veterinary assistant in a quaint Yorkshire town in the late 1930s. Her boss, Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), generally comes across as stubbornly grumpy, except when he sometimes shows a hidden tendency vulnerable to his housekeeper, the ever-capable Mrs. Aubrey Hall (Anna Madeley).

James and Siegfried don’t always agree – Siegfried likes to put James to the test, especially when the toughest calls come – but they quickly develop a relationship based on mutual respect. Together, they roam the country and answer calls about cows that cannot stand and horses with injured front hooves.

Siegfried’s indolent but outgoing brother, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), who returns home after failing his vet school exams, bursts in to shake up the idyllic countryside. After starting to compete, he and James form a brotherly bond, a kind of “us versus him” when Siegfried is in one of his moods.

There is a parade of distinctive patrons whose animals must attend. Gruff farmers, discerning racehorse owners, city dwellers unsure of what to think of Siegfried’s new assistant (the fifth in recent memory). Speaking of wanting to return to better times, this series marks Dame Diana Rigg’s last on-screen role; here she plays the rich and eccentric Mrs. Pumphrey who is crazy about her absurdly demanding Pekingese, Tricki Woo

At this point, while the stories have always focused largely on the antics and dynamics between Siegfried, James, and Tristan, this version of “All Creatures” thankfully grows to give the women in their lives much more stories and motivations. heavy. Mrs Hall is not just a nurturing matriarch, but a boring matriarch – rather it is her estrangement from her son that seems to lead her to take care of others. James’ main love interest, Helen (Rachel Shenton), is established as an independent farmer whose energies are largely devoted to caring for her younger younger sister (Imogen Clawson).

That said, the series doesn’t deviate too much from the original BBC’s phrase “All Creatures Big and Small,” which is honestly welcome. Producer Colin Callender, writer Ben Vanstone and director Brian Percival – known for his work on ‘Downton Abbey’ – focus on the elements that made his predecessor so beloved and are capturing them again for modern audiences: the superb pastoral landscapes, the light British jokes, the magnificent animals (So many adorable cows with big black eyes! So many very good dogs!).

This underlying idea is that, as the title suggests, there is something deeply uplifting about caring for the most helpless creatures around us – that our society would be better off if more people bend over backwards, even one very little, to see after the comfort of others. In this way, “All Creatures Big and Small” is a kind of period-specific extension of what I would call the “Ted Lasso Effect”.

The Apple TV + show, which stars Jason Sudeik as the main character, therefore appeals to viewers because it takes place in a universe where good work and kindness are actually rewarded. As Salon’s Melanie McFarland wrote, “What he preaches is to take comfort in who we are and how we are, and to have faith that we can become better.

“All Creatures Big and Small” sends a similar message – and as such, it may leave viewers in a space where they not only long for better times, but are also inspired to improve the future. .

“All Creatures Big and Small” arrives at PBS’s “Masterpiece” on January 10 at 9 p.m. EST.

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