TV Viewpoint: All Creatures Great and Small and The One

Starting off on the wrong hoof on All Creatures Great and Small

BEGINNING a new job after a celebratory night out is never, ever a good idea. Take it from me; the night before I began a part-time gig as a jewellery concession stand re-stocker back when I was a student, what I thought was going to be a tame night at a table quiz escalated into, well, something a bit less tame.

The next wretched morning, I dragged myself out of bed to feign bright perkiness on training day, only to sweat my way through initiation while simultaneously silently enduring the most almighty thirst, using up all the concentration that should have been focused on learning the ropes on not passing out from dehydration.

Somehow it worked out for me (they must have needed the staff, and I had most definitely learned my lesson to never again be accidentally hungover at work), and it worked out for James Herriot, the newly qualified vet played by relative newcomer Nicholas Ralph in the 2020 remake of All Creatures Great and Small, which began a couple of weeks ago on RTE One, but which I caught on the RTE Player last week.

Now, I’m aware of the previous, beloved series that ran from 1978 – 1990, itself based on the semi-autobiographical writings of the real James Herriot, but I have never seen the original run. This lovely adaptation brought to mind instantly a male-oriented version of Call the Midwife; plucky young graduate is a fish out of water when they go to work in a respected but challenging position in a tight-knit community that live by certain, established ways.

My experience of being queasy and almost fainting on the floor of a Cork city Dorothy Perkins pales in comparison to young James almost getting the wrong cat ‘fixed’. He begins his journey from the smoggy streets of Glasgow to the green Yorkshire dales encountering a few tiny mishaps along the way, before proving himself a worthy assistant to veterinarian Siegfried Farnon, when he ably and admirably handles a horse in distress.

Later, when the horse’s owner tempts him to a drink in the local pub, a home brew that anyone outside of the locality would have few defences against, this nice young vet elects to save face, and thus ends up the following day in the close-to-catastrophic castration calamity.

But young James manages to prove himself once again when he saves a cow and her calf, using an unconventional method. A very cute calf is safely delivered, the most delicious looking door-stop sandwich to the exhausted vet distributed, a first-name basis established between boss and protégé exchanged, and a delightful set-up made for this eight-episode run. It continues every Sunday evening on RTE One at 7:30pm.

On a side note, pretty local farmer and obvious potential love interest Helen is portrayed by an ex-Hollyoaks actress (a Channel 4 soap, for those un-initiated), Rachel Stenton. In 2018 Stenton won an Oscar for co-producing that year’s Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, The Silent Child, which she also wrote and starred in.

The heart-breaking film is about a deaf little girl struggling to communicate until she meets a capable social worker; it’s available on YouTube, and it’s really well worth a watch.

Has anyone asked for yet another near-future set, sci-fi drama about advanced tech being capable of finding your soulmate, because it sure seems like someone with considerable clout in the TV making industry has.

The latest in a significant line of recent programmes that deal with such faux-morality questioning, quasi-ethically concerned subject matter is The One, which came to Netflix (of course) last Friday.

What distinguishes this one from other similar offerings, like Amazon’s Soulmates and a popular episode of Black Mirror, is its focus on the app founder, a confident and brilliant, and maybe murderous, young woman by the name of Rebecca Ware.

The One

As well as the complicated quandaries suffered by curious civilians in perfectly functional relationships is the actual science bit, which has heretofore been mostly glossed over in previous incarnations of the concept. This addressing of that part of the story doesn’t make The One better, necessarily, but different enough to hold focus for the second episode at least.

This one won’t be award-winning, but it’s sophisticated enough to try for a few different angles that haven’t been approached before, so it’s only fair in that respect to give credit where credit is due.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 17.03.21

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