STANDING ON GUARD

for peace … for freedom … for Canada

Springhill Series 1

Release Year:         1996
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; 4:3 Full Screen; NTSC; SDH Subtitles
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         4 Discs / 26 Episodes
Running Time:         624 minutes
DVD Release Date:         June 18, 2013
Screenwriters:         Paul Abbott, Sally Wainwright, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Russell T. Davies, Mark Roberts, Catherine Hayes, Marina O’Loughlin, Jan McVerry, Matthew Westwood, Paul Marquess, Ayshe Raif
Directors:         Simon Massey, Jon Woods, Michael Kerrigan, Romey Allison
Actors:         Gilly Coman, Jonathan Barlow, Katharine Rogers
E:Top Picks Rating:         10/10

Acorn Media Write-up:  
Liz and Jack Freeman have been happily married for almost two decades, tending to their Liverpool home and raising five boisterous children. But their lives are thrown into turmoil with the unwelcome arrival of Eva Morrigan, a vengeful woman who harbors the family’s darkest secrets. Eva is hell-bent on getting even with Liz, which drives the once-cheerful clan into chaos.

Created by Paul Abbott (Shameless, State of Play) and Frank Cottrell Boyce, veterans of Britain’s Coronation Street, and buoyed by strong screenwriters including Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Queer as Folk), this series mixes the delicious drama of a soap with mysterious, supernatural elements. It’s Twin Peaks meets EastEnders, with few taboos left untouched as the Freemans face shocking revelations and electrifying confrontations.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:  
The art of the soap opera is a subtle one and not always inherent. Soaps can run the gamut from insipid to outrageous to compelling to addictive. The anatomy of a good soap is an emphasis on family life, personal relationships, sexual dramas, emotional and moral conflicts, and some coverage of topical issues, all the while being set in familiar domestic interiors with only occasional excursions into new locations. Fitting in with these characteristics, most soap operas follow the lives of a group of characters who live or work in a particular place, or focus on a large extended family. The storylines follow the day-to-day activities and personal relationships of these characters.

The open narrative structure that incorporates the above definition guarantees that a soap can go on forever, given the chance. Witness the granddaddy of all soaps, Coronation Street, which has been in continuous production since 1960, with over 8000 episodes in the can. Some soaps, like SPRINGHILL, ran for considerably shorter periods, though in this case, at least, the show isn’t any less compelling and addictive for its short run.

SPRINGHILL is yet another example of Brit TV gold, produced years ago (1996-97), and all but forgotten now. It’s a prime example of just because you haven’t heard of it previously doesn’t meant it isn’t good. SPRINGHILL, for its added supernatural elements, ups the ante by taking what is the traditional format of kitchen sink drama and marrying it with a new take on the perennial good VS. evil storyline of dramatic tradition. It’s not an obvious mix and could easily fail. It doesn’t. The cast is wonderful, including a remarkable teenaged actor barely heard of since this was filmed named Paul Culshaw. His John Paul Freeman is, it seems, the moral centrepiece of SPRINGHILL. It’s a brilliant touch and the show stands or falls by the skill of this young actor’s performance. In episode one he has a wonderful speech as he eulogizes his grandfather. It made me sit up and take notice as I eased into the off kilter world of the Freeman family. And from there it just gets better and better.

With the exception of the handsome eldest son, the rest of the young people are far from glamourous in their appearance, a key element towards believability. Yet there isn’t a false note in any of the performances. Everyone is well cast and women’s roles are extraordinary.

Plot elements are true to the world of the soap opera, though there are many surprises, too. To reveal any of them would be pointless out of context. Perhaps the ultimate compliment that can be paid is my genuine WORRY that we’ll have to wait awhile for the second series! SPRINGHILL entices with its mix of the familiar and the radical; it addicts with its uniform excellence and diversity; it manipulates with its absolute mastery of its execution. And, in places, it is laugh out loud funny. None of this could work were it not for the fact that the cast plays it absolutely straight. There isn’t even a hint of soap opera parody in the performances, though it is certainly (and wonderfully) there in the writing.

SPRINGHILL is brilliant. See it. Then DEMAND the release of Series Two!

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