A New Version of an Old Favorite

I’ve become a very picky TV watcher.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to watch a variety of programs in different genres, but over  the last several months I stopped watching programs I used to enjoy.

Dramas have become too gritty and upsetting; medical shows too intense; and comedies, for the most part, are just annoying and rarely make me laugh.

I don’t know when it happened, but the number of programs I watch—and especially the number of channels I’m willing to tune into—have really shrunk in number.

In a previous post I wrote about how much I enjoy Signed, Sealed Delivered, and you can bet I’ve watched the entire series as well as the films over the last few months. But old favorites only go so far.

So when I heard that Britain’s BBC had filmed a brand new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small (the semi-autobiographical books by veterinarian James Herriot), and it was coming to American PBS stations in the new year, I was intrigued.

I was a big fan of James Herriot’s books when they first appeared in the U.S. in the mid-1970s. I read them all, and enjoyed them so much I read them again. They’ve been on my keeper shelf ever since.

Then the BBC adapted the books for TV in a delightful series that I watched and loved. It ticked all the boxes: quirky characters, entertaining anecdotes about animals, some drama and some laughs, and a sympathetic main character who was just your average guy trying to learn the ropes of a new job in a brand new city.

The original leads in the 1978 TV series.

One of the main reasons I loved the original books and TV series was how comforting they were. They made me nostalgic for a time I never knew but would like to: when life was simple, and people talked to each other face to face; when handshakes meant something, and neighbors helped neighbors.

A sweet moment in the new adaptation.

In fact, I loved the old show so much, I wondered if the new adaptation could possibly live up to my expectations. Would they try to modernize the story to make it “relevant” for the twenty-first century?

I am happy to report, they did not!

I’ve watched the first three episodes of the new version, and I like it very much. It’s a faithful adaptation of Herriot’s books. The characters are just as lovable, charming, and entertaining in the new version as they were in the old.

The cast of the 2020 adaptation.

Another thing I love about the new series is the pains they took to expand James Herriot’s world. It depicts Yorkshire—its villages and countryside—in all its glory, so I really get a sense of place, and how different those new surroundings must have been for James to get used to.

Actor Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot with the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside as a backdrop.

At last I found something new to watch on TV! And since PBS has aired only half the episodes, I now have a show I can look forward to watching for the next four Sunday evenings. How refreshing!

A charming Yorkshire village setting for the new TV series.

One good thing that has resulted from watching the new series is that it has inspired me to dust off my old copies of the original James Herriot books and reread them. It’s been several years since I even touched them, and I have to say it’s like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

As much as I enjoyed the 1970s TV show and like the new 2020 version, the original book is better. It just is.

Do you have a favorite television show you like to watch over and over?

In the crazy pandemic world we live in, is there a book, TV show, or movie that entertains and comforts you?

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