'All Creatures Great and Small,' 2020 Series 1 - TV Review

I'd seen bits and pieces of the 1970s TV version of "All Creatures Great and Small" in my childhood, but I'd never been inspired to watch it. Despite that, a modern remake somehow appealed - perhaps because of the pandemic, which has reduced my interest in depressing shows and increased my interest in reasonably upbeat fare like this. The show opens with James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) leaving Glasgow to attend a job interview in Yorkshire with Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) - who turns out to be entirely unable to keep assistants, with James being something like the fifth or sixth. Improbably, they manage to get along, with Farnon's housekeeper (Anna Madeley as Audrey Hall) acting occasionally as the peacekeeper. In the second episode, Siegfried's younger brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) returns home. He's intelligent, too much of a drinker, and a poor student of veterinary science (although a fair practitioner). The most important secondary character in the first season is Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), Herriot's love interest - who is unfortunately already involved with Neville Longbottom (not actually the character's name, but the actor is Matthew Lewis who had that role in Harry Potter).

All of this is based at least in part on real people and events. "James Herriot" was the pen name of Alf Wight, and there are real people behind Siegfried, Tristan, and Helen. Mind you, there have been modifications: the original Siegfried sounds borderline crazy, whereas he's portrayed in the books and here as merely eccentric. Other changes were made to suit the books, but the series is at least partly autobiographical.

The series is about as low-key as it gets: it's a gentle comedy about life in a small British town in the 1930s. It's not completely without dark moments: James has to put down a winning racehorse to the considerable distress of all involved. But mostly it's a comedy, and quite a charming one.