The quality of T.V. shows these days is not particularly consistent. Of course it depends on what you’re into, with some people thriving on The Walking Dead, or others preferring Vision T.V. on Rogers Cable here in Canada for its smart selection of classic British, Canadian and American shows. I’m not a huge subscriber of cable television; maybe if I had more time I would spend it in front of the big box, however, every now and then I come across a show that I find particularly engaging.
I recently happened upon a Canadian-American period drama (LOVE me my period dramas) called When Calls the Heart, which is based on Janette Oke’s book by the same name. Now, because I am a sucker for history and romance, this was a perfect show to begin binge-watching. Set in the little town of Coal Valley (later called Hope Valley) in Alberta, Canada, this Western Frontier enactment is all about the feel goods. Only sometimes bordering on the slightly cheesy (I think because my generation is just pumped-full of cynicism), this drama delivers such a fantastic portfolio of lessons to build character. Spanning themes of love, forgiveness, compassion, hope, betrayal, death, grief, abandonment, sabotage and justice, this series just leaves you feeling like a better person for having watched it. A lot of us like drama packed with action and courtroom banter and loaded with wit and possibly nonsense comedy, but this show is ‘pure’, for lack of a better word. It upholds the values of kindness, compassion, respect, and love among a list of others, and in so doing provides a lens of purity in our morally disintegrating 21st-century.
Leading lady Elizabeth Thatcher, played by American actress Erin Krakow, is a big city socialite who has come to Coal Valley to begin her dream of being a teacher. Elizabeth is a headstrong woman who needs a bit of roughing around the edges, but who is kind, smart and pioneering in many ways. With a plethora of roles the likes of the dashing Mountie Jack Thornton played by Australian actor Daniel Lissing, the strong widow (and my favourite character) Abigail Stanton played by Full House‘s Lori Loughlin, the bubbly actress Rosemary LeVeaux played by Canadian actress Pascale Hutton, this show boasts a cast of very colourful and endearing characters. You’ll be surprised at how invested you become in these characters when you worry for Abigail’s safety or fret for Jack’s life.
What I love most about this show is that it portrays women in a leading role of strength and honour. The women are forward-thinkers and brave, and showcased in ways that complement their male counterparts. To me this show embodies a lot of what equality of the sexes needs to look like. Men respect women, and women respect men, and I think that it is this lesson that stays with me the most as I wait for Season 4 of this well-produced drama to begin next year. The irony of this statement is not lost on me as this show set a hundred years ago is more progressive than the deluge of TV we see these days where the sexes are just tossed around into total chaos. There is respect in relationships, and couples take their time to get to know each other and value their growing fondness for each other. There is honour, and people do the right thing by each other. There is forgiveness and hope, there is love and unrestrained compassion for strangers. And let’s not even sidestep the incredible chemistry between Erin Krakow’s and Daniel Lissing’s characters! Other progressive themes that struck me are the modern concepts around differentiated teaching and creative strategies for hands-on learning (as a teacher these nuances are quite intriguing), pushing for female education beyond the schoolhouse and women starting their own businesses and doing the handiwork around repairing their homes.
The Canadian tongue-in-cheek humour that we inherited from out British forefathers is quite entertaining, with sass peppered into the female and male characters alike. I am so glad that a show like this has been renewed for a 4th season when feel-good television in the same genre barely makes it past the 2nd.
If you’re looking for a feel-good series about life on the Western Frontier, this is the show for you. The plot is rich, the acting commendable, the setting quite elaborate and the themes totally worth your time. I just might invest in the entire series on DVD for myself! With 10 episodes per season, each episode running about 42 minutes (without ads), the first two seasons of the show are available on Netflix and the CBC TV app, if you’re in Canada. The show usually airs on the Hallmark Channel in the U.S. and on Super Channel here in Canada, with the 4th season premiering sometime in February, 2017. If you decide to watch this show, let me know what you think in the comment section. You can catch a CBC preview here:When Calls the Heart CBC Preview
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