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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

the oh-yes! DVD of the week: ‘Lark Rise to Candleford: Season Four’

I caught some of the latest (and, sadly, it seems, the last) series of the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford when I arrived in London in January. My interest was piqued when I heard my 70something aunt and her grandchildren (my cousins), nine- and 13-year-old girls, gossiping about the characters as if they knew the Victorian villagers who populate the show. I figured any series that excites kids and grannies alike has got to be worth a look.

And it was. Now I’m hooked, and have four years’ worth of the show to go back to. Gentle in a way that is rarely seen on British or American TV these day — when both are dominated by gritty crime dramas and meanspirited comedies and reality shows — it tells the simple, funny, bittersweet tales of the people of Lark Rise, a 19th-century Oxfordshire village, and Candleford, the slightly more sophisticated town nearby. Revolving around the modest trials and tribulations of Dorcas Lane (Julia Sawalha… Saffy from AbFab!), Candleford’s postmistress, and her new apprentice, Laura Timmins (Olivia Hallinan), the show is refreshing in its ability to find riveting drama and humor in small, personal events, from romance — will the new blacksmith in Candleford make Dorcas reconsider her professional dedication to spinsterhood? — to sports: how to thrash that rival town at cricket when the Candleford team is a man short?

Lark Rise to Candleford reminds me very much of All Creatures Great and Small, with its bucolic setting and mellow sense of humor hiding a subtle sharpness. I wish there was more stuff like this on TV: this is the kind of escapism I can buy into.

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