SOME GOOD SOAP
by Sue Wurster
It’s that time of year again–when many of us retreat into our cocoons and pull out the remote. And for me, when that time comes round, there is nothing more satisfying than a good, solid dose of Masterpiece Theatre style soap. Ever since the debut of Upstairs, Downstairs in this country, I’ve been hooked on British television.
Last year, my binge of choice was Doc Martin followed by Call the Midwife. I recently discovered Land Girls, which helped to ease my pain over the cancellation of Home Fires after only two seasons that ended on quite the cliffhanger…I guess we’ll never know why the show was cancelled or who ended up falling over the cliff’s edge…
Land Girls was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 70th year since the outbreak of World War II. The three-season series (15 episodes in all) follows four volunteer members of the Women’s Land Army who are working in the fields at the Hoxley family estate during the war.
Another gem set in a small rural community in England during the war is Home Fires. The focus, in this case, is on the women who comprise the local Women’s Institute who devote their energies to various and sundry home front causes during the war. The cast is led by the marvelous Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, and the only disappointment in the two series is that there has not been a third…
At the moment, I am completely addicted to the acclaimed Australian series, A Place to Call Home. Often referred to as “Downton Down Under,” the series is set in post WWII Australia and focuses on the central character of Sarah Adams who, after twenty years absence, has recently returned to the country to start a new life. The wonderfully enigmatic Marta Dusseldorp fully embodies the role of the mysterious Sarah in this highly satisfying soap.
Interestingly, A Place to Call Home was originally slated to run for two seasons, and the last episode of the second wraps up the various plot lines quite nicely. But when given the unexpected go-ahead for an additional season, that ending was revamped. There’s something quite engaging about being able to see both. Luckily, it went on to enjoy not only a third but fourth and fifth seasons as well (and they all consist of 10 or more episodes), so, as I’m currently in the middle of season three, I’m in good shape for a while.
Of course, I’ve often wondered just why it is that I so prefer British television to American, and I’ve decided that it has to do with focus. To me, BBC storytelling seems to be driven by character rather than by situation–and for me, that seems to provide more “heart” to the mix.
These items are available on DVD. Land Girls is available on Netflix, and Home Fires is on Amazon Prime Video. A Place to Call Home is streaming on Acorn TV and Britbox. (If you’re a BBC junkie like me, the latter two are well worth the price.)
So, if you’ve got suggestions for me and my fellow BBC addicts, please share in the box below!