A couple of weeks ago, still feeling that Christmas-morning feeling about my shiny new Britbox subscription, I clicked on “Where the Heart Is,” a long-running British television series that began in 1997. I picked it mostly because it featured two of my favorite British television actors: Pam Ferris and Sarah Lancashire, and also because I vaguely remembered my friend Julie saying that it had assuaged her grief when she ran out of episodes of “Last Tango in Halifax.” (That’s some hard times, right there.)
“Where the Heart Is” is a fuzzy, homey, lovey-dovey series about family relationships in the mythical Yorkshire town of Skelthwaite, where not a lot happens, but they make the most of anything that does. Because the lead women characters—Ferris and Lancashire—work as district nurses (what we’d call visiting nurses here in the US), each episode also features a minor (sometimes major, but usually minor) medical issue involving an Eccentric Single-Episode Character. If I had to describe “Where the Heart Is” to US viewers of schmaltzy TV, I’d say it’s like the writers of “Thirtysomething” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” joined forces to unleash something diabolically wholesome and heartwarming on the world. They succeeded wildly.
Everyone means well in Skelthwaite. There are no evil Skelthwaithians. Sure, once in a while somebody steals a baby or sets a house on fire, but not without good reason. Skelthwaithians aren’t notable for ambition or witty repartee. Eyebrows are raised if anyone wanders as far as Leeds. The town’s main business is a toilet paper factory, where, as far as I can tell, they haven’t quite figured out the finer points of automation. They field a hapless rugby team. They spend a lot of time in the pub. Above all else, they love Skelthwaite.
One of the best parts of watching “Where the Heart Is,” is being able to look ahead to the roles that Ferris and Lancashire have played since then. They were good then, and they are great now. No doubt, they learned a lot in Skelthwaite.
I’m watching it on Britbox, and Amazon Prime Video is streaming 8 seasons of “Where the Heart Is.”
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