Rolling Stone magazine has called it “incredible balm,” and the New York Times extolled its “upbeat and cheerful tone.” American viewers are wowed by its bucolic setting, little everyday dramas, and old-fashioned sense of community. And, of course, the animals.
All Creatures Great and Small, the small screen adaptation of a novel series by James Herriot, the pseudonym of Yorkshire vet Alf Wight, has become a surprising success in the home of fast-paced thrillers and warring dynasties.
Season 2, which kicked off in the US at the weekend, has joined other British soft-TV exports that have earned a place in American hearts. Bake-Off, The Repair Shop and, the great lady of all, Downton Abbey have shown the American public that sex, violence, celebrities and bad language are not essential to success.
Samuel West, who plays veteran Siegfried Farnon on the Channel 5 drama, said last month that his warm reception was because “people need kind and decent television about people trying to take care of each other and reduce suffering in instead of an excellent and tough television ”. “Hitting, what could be called gritty, television about terrible things that happen to innocent people.”
He told the Talkshire podcast: “It’s strangely revolutionary to do a series about people trying to be nice to each other.”
Alan Sepinwall, writing in rolling stone, said the “empathy and simplicity of All Creatures feel genuinely radical. “
Season 1 began airing in the US four days after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last January. “Suddenly, there was nothing I wanted to see more than this amiable spectacle, with its low-stakes plot, lush landscapes, adorable animals, and a fundamentally likeable set of people…
“It’s an incredible balm and a welcome contrast … to the garbage fire of our own reality.”
Colin Callender, the show’s executive producer, said All Creatures season 1 had been watched by more than 10 million viewers in the US and “it looks like we’re on our way to a similar number this time.”
He added: “A combination of the pandemic and the very uncivil society we live in in the US has meant that the simple values of community, friendship and kindness have been lost in a very ugly political debate. The show serves as a relief from the stresses and strains that people feel right now. “
American audiences loved it precisely because it was such a British drama, he added. “It’s what we do brilliantly,” and its success also showed that “we don’t need to spend huge sums of money to compete in the international market.” All Creatures “was not an expensive television series by contemporary standards.”
The Great British Bake Off, whose rights were obtained by Netflix in 2018, is another hit with American audiences, albeit under the title Great British Baking Show, as the term “bake-off” is registered by a food brand. The Repair Shop, initially broadcast on Netflix, now on Discovery +, has found a loyal audience across all four seasons available in the US (the UK show is in season 8).
Downton Abbey, now over a decade old, was a hit in the US, winning more Emmys than Baftas. But some scenes and backstories were cut, with an executive PBS producer explaining that American audiences demanded a “different speed when it comes to television drama.”
Mark Lawson, who writes about television for The Guardian, said the enthusiasm some audiences in the US and UK had for the other country’s small-screen offerings was not new. But in each case, it was a minority of viewers, perhaps 15-20%.
“It dates back to at least the 1960s. British viewers who find British television too cozy crave American television, and American viewers who find American television too avant-garde crave the comfort of British television.”
The United States had supplied “brilliant television” like Dallas and Dynasty long before something similar was produced in the United Kingdom, while British broadcasters stood out on “legacy television,” said Lawson, who is writing a history of television. .
Today, he added, “American hits here tend to be the best of [their output], but I’m not sure that is reciprocally true. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism