ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL was often "laugh out loud" funny and had a superb cast, including Peter Davison (also known for CAMPION and DR. WHO) and Robert Hardy. Indeed, I consider Hardy's portrayal of the mercurial senior veterinarian Siegfried Farnon to be one of the all-time great TV performances and characters. It was a joy to be able to collect that series on DVD and share it in turn with my own children as they were growing up.
Naturally, when I first heard about the series being remade I had little interest in it. What could compare to the beloved original? Yet a number of people whose opinions I respect, including longtime commenter Jerry Entract, told me the new version was wonderful and I should give it a try.
The program follows the rough outlines of the original series and books by James Herriot. Circa the 1930s, James (Nicholas Ralph), newly graduated from veterinary school, travels from his home in Glasgow to apply for a position with Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) in Yorkshire.
Siegfried, a widower who is more parent than brother to his "challenging" sibling Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), is emotional and unpredictable, but he's also fair and kind underneath the bluster.
I particularly liked the way this series fleshed out the character of Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), the housekeeper, making her a much more integral part of the story as she deftly "manages" the disparate personalities living under the same roof at Skeldale House. Mrs. Hall might be my favorite character, from the moment she greets James when he arrives for his interview and encourages Siegfried to hire him. Although emotionally wounded in a somewhat mysterious past, she doesn't hesitate to speak her mind and give advice to any of the vets when it's called for.
EDWARD THE KING (1975); current ALL CREATURES star Samuel West is his son. Samuel even played the ill-fated Prince Albert Victor ("Eddy") on EDWARD THE KING as a young child. West makes Siegfried his own creation, no small feat in the wake of Robert Hardy's shadow.
As for Ralph and Shenton, they are simply lovely, subtly conveying their attraction for one another along with Helen's growing doubts about marrying Hugh. Shenton is bright-eyed and intelligent as Helen, at the ready with her honest opinions; like Siegfried, she serves as a quasi parent to a sibling, in this case her young sister Jenny (Imogen Clawson). Ralph is an empathetic James, a quiet man who also shows considerable courage from time to time as he steps out on his own as a practicing veterinarian handling difficult cases.
I'll be watching Season 2 shortly, and I'm delighted to know that Season 3 is currently filming, with Season 4 also promised for the future.
Highly recommended -- and thanks to all who so highly recommended it to me!