All Creatures Great & Small

Channel 5 / My5

Channel 5 may seem an unlikely home for a reboot of one of the BBC’s most beloved dramas but, having recently given us The Yorkshire Steam RailwayOur Yorkshire FarmMade in Yorkshire and, tellingly, The Yorkshire Vet, it was probably only a matter of time until James Herriot popped up over a dry-stone wall.

Of course, All Creatures Great & Small isn’t technically a remake, but a new adaptation of the bestselling comic memoirs by vet ‘James Herriot’ (real name Alf Wight). But while the books were first adapted for the screen in two 1970s feature films, it’s the cherished BBC series whose shadow looms largest over this revival.

And the good news is that the producers haven’t been tempted to mess with the winning formula one jot (because, let’s face it, no-one was crying out for a radical reinvention of All Creatures Great & Small, were they?).

Newcomer Nicholas Ralph is a more Scottish James Herriot than Christopher Timothy (Alf Wight was born in England but raised in Glasgow), but brings something of the same softly-spoken charm as the freshly-scrubbed young vet embarking on his first job. The plum role, though, is the gruff senior partner Siegfried Farnon, immortalised by the great Robert Hardy, and here played with gimlet-eyed relish by Samuel West, whose father Timothy has made a fine career out of just these sorts of curmudgeons. Anna Madeley gives as good as she gets as no-nonsense housekeeper Mrs Hall, and Rachel Shenton – surely the only ex-Hollyoaks actor to have won an Oscar – promises to be more than merely James’s ‘love interest’ as gutsy farmer Helen Alderson.

Mixing slapstick comedy with warm-hearted humour, this is the unashamed TV comfort food we surely all need right now. And while it might not bring anything particularly new to the table (the first episode even reprised the original theme tune) those bleak and beautiful Yorkshire Dales have never looked more stunning in glorious HD.

I Hate Suzie

Sky Atlantic / NOW TV

Billie Piper can’t have had to dig very deep for the role of a teen pop star who later found success in a popular sci-fi franchise. But that doesn’t stop I Hate Suzie, which Piper co-created with writer Lucy Prebble, being one of the most dazzlingly original shows of the year. Opening on the morning when Suzie finds compromising photos of her have been leaked online, what follows is a dark, daring, bitingly funny study of fame, shame and cancel culture. Bravo.

The Fast Show: Just A Load of Blooming Catchphrases

Gold / UKTV Play

This talking heads show with a twist was a textbook lesson in how to do TV nostalgia, as the cast of The Fast Show (“a comedy that was just the highlights,” according to Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson) reminisced both as themselves, and in character as Ted and Ralph, Swiss Toni et al. Which was nice. The real lump-in-the-throat moment, though, was Jon Thomson’s henpecked Roy sitting silent and alone on a couch, with just an empty space where the much-missed Caroline Aherne should have been.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, 3 September 2020 (c) Waitrose Weekend

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