This week, one of my favorite shows is returning to television.
Two years ago, I was looking for a show to tide me over between seasons 2 and 3 of Ted Lasso — something featuring a fish-out-of-water lead and characters as warm as AFC Richmond. Little did I know that all I had to do was head northwest of London and back about 80 years to the bucolic hills and dales of Yorkshire Dales, circa 1937.
That show was All Creatures Great and Small, which follows James Herriot, a just-out-of-med-school vet who moves from his native Scotland to England to start his career as an assistant vet in the small hamlet of Darrowby.
Herriot deals with plenty of challenges, as he not only has to diagnose and treat the ailments of various farm animals but has to also deal with surly farmers who think they know more than this young upstart. Herriot's boss, Sigfried Farnon, doesn't try to undermine him as Rebecca does to Ted Lasso, but he has a very prickly personality that makes Herriot initially question what he's doing.
Season 4 of All Creatures Great and Small premieres Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS.
However, one of the reasons why All Creatures is such comfort food is that almost all of the characters are fundamentally good. Even Herriot's would-be adversaries, such as Hugh Holton (played by Matthew Lewis, aka Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter movies) — is a pretty decent chap in the end.
All Creatures season 4 aired in the U.K. back in October 2023, but it's finally coming to the U.S. starting January 7 on PBS at 9 p.m. ET, which is available over-the-air if you have one of the best TV antennas. You can also watch it using the PBS app, which you can download on all of the best streaming devices, as well as the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video channel.
I definitely recommend watching the first three seasons over again, but to catch you up on what's happened: In season 3, James and Helen (a radiant Rachel Shenton) are finally married and are settling into life together, trying to figure out what that means for each of them. Meanwhile, James is also trying to get all the farmers in his area to test their cows for tuberculosis — it means that fewer people will get sick, but also could mean financial ruin for any farmer whose cows are ill.
But the biggest issue facing James — and everyone else — is the start of World War II. What started off as background noise at the beginning of season 3 is now a full-scale conflict. The final episode of the season saw Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) enlisting in the army, against brother Sigfried's wishes.
Without looking too much into the plot summaries, season 4 takes place in 1940, when the Nazis overrun the Continent, the U.S. has yet to enter the war, and the U.K. is the lone European holdout. So, I'm curious to see how — or if — the show will be able to maintain its previously hopeful tone amid such calamity. But you can be sure I'll be tuning in.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.
The show is still charming, but definitely lost a step in series 4. It's not just the changed cast - it's more melodramatic, sappy, and heavy-handed. Looks to me like that's down to Ben Vanstone being less involved this time around.Reply