Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Without a doubt, this is far better than any of the fare offered up to us by Doctor Who or Downton Abbey in recent years. Brilliant cast, brilliant production values, brilliant story...I only wish it could have lasted longer! The story, at first glance, may seem like the usual shtick designed to entertain the family in front of the telly at tea-time, and in a way it is. It isn't overly-sentimental in it's view, though- it's not one of the many "those-were-the-days" shows clogging up our screens nowadays, and while it may look at the 1930s through those famed rose-tinted lenses, it's extremely sweet and charming in it's nostalgic intent. George's plight at the hands of PTSD (or 'shell-shock' as it was known those days) is heart-breaking to watch, as are the trials that his family must endure in order to maintain a tolerable standard of living. However, after encountering a customs officer with parrots and monkeys left on his hands, George buys them from him along with a mistreated old camel from a cruel circus owner out of compassion. And, when he discovers the forgotten Oakfield House on his way to a war reunion, the light-bulb goes off- a zoo. "A zoo without bars", no less. The numerous episodes are funny and light-hearted but can venture into serious territory at times (one involves George being accosted by an enraged bear), and at one hour long they're perfectly paced and a delight to watch. The cast is sensational, especially Lee Ingleby, Liz White and Anne Reid. Ingleby seems to be the perfect choice for these kinds of roles- sympathetic and kind-hearted but stubborn at times, he represents a tortured man who is trying to "put a bit of beauty back into the world." White is excellent as his long-suffering but nonetheless dedicated wife Lizzie, and Reid is in her element as his prickly but loving mother Lucy. Peter Wight, Ralf Little and Honor Kneafsey are all excellent too as the supportive Albert, the hilarious Billy and the innocent June, respectively. The production values are amazing, emulating a true dedication to period detail. And the animals...well, let's just say that I have a soft spot for those little penguins! One of the best sequences of the entire series was George and Billy walking 'em down the high street! In short, this was a sensational BBC drama that shows that they've still got it when they put their minds to it and manage to wrangle a great cast and crew. I only wish there could be more, but if there was it would become far too much like a soap opera! Amazing.