All Creatures Great and Small gently conquers America

Rolling Stone magazine has called it “incredible balm”, and the New York Times extolled its “cheerful optimistic tone”. American viewers are enthralled by its bucolic setting, the small, everyday dramas and its old-fashioned sense of community. 和, 当然, the animals.

All Creatures Great and Small, the small-screen adaptation of a series of novels by James Herriot, the pen name of Yorkshire vet Alf Wight, has become a surprising hit in the home of fast-paced thrillers and warring dynasties.

Season 2, which started in the US at the weekend, has joined other British exports of gentle television that have won a place in American hearts. Bake-Off, The Repair Shop and – the grande dame of them all – Downton Abbey have shown US audiences that sex, 暴力, celebrities and swearing are not essential to success.

Samuel West, who plays down-to-earth vet Siegfried Farnon in the Channel 5 Showtrial最初播放相同的曲调, said last month that its warm reception was because “people need gentle, decent television about people trying to care for each other and reduce suffering rather than excellent hard-hitting, what you might call gritty, television about terrible things happening to innocent people”.

He told the Talkshire podcast: “It’s strangely revolutionary to be making a series about people trying to be kind 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 watch more than this gentle show, with its low-stakes plotting, lush scenery, adorable animals, and ensemble of fundamentally nice people …

“It is an incredible balm, and a welcome contrast … to the dumpster fire of our own reality.”

Colin Callender, the show’s executive producer, said season 1 of All Creatures had been seen by more than 10 million viewers in the US, and “it looks like we’re en route to a similar number this time round”.

他加了: “A combination of the pandemic and the very uncivil society that we live in the US has meant the simple values of community, friendship and kindness have got lost in a very ugly political debate. The show serves as a relief from the stresses and strains that people are feeling right now.”

US audiences loved it precisely because it was a very British drama, 他加了. “It’s what we do brilliantly,” and its success also showed that “we don’t need to spend enormous sums of money to compete in the international marketplace”. All Creatures was “not an expensive TV series by contemporary standards”.

The Great British Bake Off, rights to which were secured by Netflix in 2018, is another success with US audiences, albeit under the title of the Great British Baking Show as the term “bake-off” is trademarked by a food brand. The Repair Shop, aired initially by Netflix, now by Discovery+, has found a loyal audience through the four seasons available in the US (the UK show is on season 8).

Downton Abbey, now more than a decade old, triumphed in the US, winning more Emmys than Baftas. But some scenes and backstories were cut, with an executive producer for PBS explaining that US audiences demanded a “different speed when it comes to television drama”.

Mark Lawson, who writes about television for the Guardian, said the enamour felt by some US and UK audiences for the other country’s small-screen offerings was not new. But in each case, it was a minority of viewers, 也许 15-20%.

“It goes back at least to the 1960s. British viewers who find British television too cosy have craved the edge of American television, and American viewers who find American television too edgy have craved the cosiness of British TV.”

The US had supplied “glossy TV” such as Dallas and Dynasty long before anything similar was produced in the UK, while British broadcasters excelled at “heritage TV”, 东南亚国家联盟, who is writing a history of television.

今天, 他加了, “the US hits here tend to be the best of [their output], but I’m not sure that’s true reciprocally”.