02 February 2011

Lark Rise: 'tis a silly place. (Review: 'Lark Rise to Candleford', Episode 4.4)

One of the UK's main things it manufactures these days is costume dramas. The BBC have become world-renowned for them and ITV frequently produces some of high worth, most recently Downton Abbey, it's biggest hit that's not involved Simon Cowell for a while.

A few days ago, the BBC announced it would stop making its Sunday night costume drama Lark Rise to Candleford, arguing that they wanted to take it out on a high. If this is a high, I'd hate to see what a low looks like.
For those of you not familiar with the show, it is a loose adaptation of Flora Thompson's autobiographical novels about her childhood in 19th century Oxfordshire. It follows Laura - see what they did there? - a young woman, who moves from the sleepy village of Lark Rise to work at the Post Office in Candleford in the 1890s (it's 1897 now).

Each episode, some outside visitor or technical development threatens to disrupt the good orderly nature of life, there are a few arguments and eventually the situation is sorted out with everyone learning a valuable lesson about tolerance/patience/humility/whatever.

This episode is a case in point. The fair comes to town. Farmhand Alfie becomes champion at something called shin-kicking; Laura becomes Queen of the Fair for being the prettiest woman there (OK...) and Queenie Turrell, one of the local senior citizens, wins a pig.

What follows involves the postman taking slight at Laura's boyfriend saying his wife isn't that attractive, Alfie's nice but a bit stupid girlfriend Minnie the maid realising he cheated (his foot went over some line and he didn't say anything) and Queenie's husband Twister selling the pig for 8 shillings which he promptly spends on drink. However, all of these issues are cleared up by the end and everyone is friends again.

By the way, the pig ends up being dinner; there was no discussion on vegetarianism.
The BBC have a problem in not having ad breaks as their hour-long shows actually have about 56 minutes of content as opposed to c.42 for a commercial network. Quantity does not equal quality and it sometimes shows. Doctor Who is only 45 minutes and works exceptionally well as a result.

Here though a lot of that is here, there's other problems. It's just got silly. People constantly get the wrong end of the stick and don't find out until it's almost too late; the characters are predictable and the plots even more so. They've apparently stopped using the books and the show has done a Fonz. Yep, it's jumped the shark.

[Happy Days  fans will of course point out said show actually lasted seven years after that moment. Expressions don't need to be accurate, just funny]

Yes, this is supposed to be escapism, but it's just boring and that's the cardinal sin for any show.

It's not without its good parts; there were some genuinely funny moments, I liked the ending and the costuming continues to be brilliant. Even the moral stuff is good. However, these don't outweigh the silly parts.

I'm glad this is going; perhaps we'll get something better.
3/5. Because I'm feeling generous.

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