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Dear Ann,

After watching and rewatching my stockpiled episodes of Vera to the point of memorization, I finally gave in and subscribed to BritBox. It’s a little worrisome, but I’ve once again fallen into a deep, tweed-lined television hole: the 1970s veterinary drama, All Creatures Great and Small.

This is comfort TV at its best. Accents and animals, scenic beauty, jalopies, and humor, with bracing jolts of the harshness of subsistence farming in the Yorkshire Dales. The program features great character actors, several of whom appear elsewhere in British period drama and comedy roles (and in Robert Hardy’s case, the Harry Potter films).

The costume department provides a ravishing parade of stranded colorwork pullovers, cardigans, and vests, plus other great country clothing from the 1920s through the early 1940s. Each of the three main men characters has a distinctive look, which makes for a fun sartorial subplot. Siegfried Farnon is often in a three-piece, and is the only character to sport a watch chain, riding gear, or a stylish hat; his younger brother Tristan Farnon favors slim-fitting, patterned sweaters, with lashings of peach and green; while James Herriot is a forerunner of business casual, in a rainbow of khakis and browns. The women are also beautifully dressed, from the horsey set to my favorite, the long-suffering housekeeper Mrs. Hall.

The series is based on James Herriot’s books by the same name, which are wonderful. In 2009, I devoured the entire series, one after the other. My copies have weathered the storms of KonMari, becoming touchstones. To complete the circle, I’m thinking of listening to the audiobook, which is read by Christopher Timothy, the actor who played Herriot in the television series.

Although I first discovered the series on my local PBS channel, I’m sad to see that it’s not available on PBS Passport at the moment. There appear to be full episodes available on YouTube, but I haven’t checked them out.

Hello—what’s this?  A new adaptation of All Creatures is on the way! I think I glimpsed Diana Rigg as Mrs. Pumphrey!



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  • Goodness, what a blast from the past! This was Sunday family viewing as a child, very many years ago. I dare say Mum was knitting while we watched. Only 3 tv channels to choose from, and one telly in the house. Definitely a bygone era!

    • I used to knit whole I watched it, too!

  • My partner and I have enjoyed this series for years, picking them up as available from the library. We finally bought the entire DVD set (from BBC Canada) and we haul them out and watch them all once a year. The acting is top-notch….Robert Hardy as Siegfried makes the show!
    I highly recommend “The Last Detective” series starring Peter Davison (Tristan).

    • I loved the series All Creatures Great and Small. I think I saw it on Netflix, but not sure. It was wonderful! As Karen Burger noted, The Last Detective is worth watching, too. Very good!

  • I am a veterinary surgeon (and keen knitter) myself, and there is no doubt that reading the James Herriot books as a child helped to keep me on that path. However…my great claim to veterinary fame is..our dog was actually treated by the real James Herriot (the pen name of Alf Wight) when we lived near Thirsk!
    Unbelievably there has been recent discussion in the UK veterinary world that James Herriot should no longer be considered an appropriate role model for the modern veterinary surgeon. It sparked a lot of debate. Every vet I know holds Alf Wight/James Herriot in the highest regard.
    I also read that there is a new version of All Creatures Great and Small being produced for TV – can’t wait!

    • We read the book to our children long ago. Then for Christmas their grandparents gave them the BBC video box set. It was our family go to rewatch.
      My youngest daughter became a veterinarian who studied in Glasgow. She now is a clinical professor of large animal at a university. I know there are lawyers out there who credit Atticus Finch with their choice.
      As she grew up she wore many sweaters mom made for her and when she left for the UK she took her hat and gloves that mom made for her. Although she never took up knitting. I tell her it’s never to late.

    • Wow. That is pretty unbelievable! What could possibly be wrong with the way he treated animals and people alike with respect and regard? Some people have no sense of humor! An aquaintance of mine in Thirsk, whose animals were cared for by the practice certainly had no beef with Wight/Herriot. When I was a student at Kansas State University, many of my housemates were pre-vet students, and to a one, they cited the Herriot canon as at least partial inspiration for their career choice.

    • That’s pretty cool! I’ve not seen the series, but I devoured the books eons ago & loved them. I should reread them again sometime.

  • I’m showing my age here (79), when I recall several of my old knitting books featured vests modeled by Tristan. Yes, he was a model of knitted sweaters and vests. Note how absolutely smooth his skin is in the series. He must moisturize like “most moisturized mom.” I too have just rediscovered the series and am loving it, a true blast from the past.

  • Oh!!!!
    If you’re subscribing to BritBox: Gardeners’ World. It is also outstanding comfort viewing, and Monty Don is surely the most lovely man in the British Isles. When you’re done with James Harriet, do try GW (and report back)!

    • I’ve just fallen in love with this series also…. I spent last night in “the kitchen gardens of France” with Monty. Just such a wonderful escape from political news.

  • The episodes not carried by Britbox are available on YouTube, though the technical quality is not the best.

  • Never missed an episode. Acorn TV has Yorkshire Vet which is about the modern veterinary practice in Thirsk. One of the vets trained with Alf Wight.

    • I binged thru The Yorkshire Vet on Acorn last year. Sorry to see no new episodes being produced, as far as I know. We are left not knowing what happens to the lovable and eccentric farming couple, Mr and Mrs Green.

    • I signed up for Brit ox via amazon on a sale recently. It definitely can be a rabbit hole, but an interesting one at least

  • My favorite series – read all the books (including children’s), watched the shows, listened to the audiobooks and love them all. Absolutely my kind of entertainment!

  • Thank you for reminding me of how much I loved this series. And I’m already a Britbox subscriber! Now if I could only manage to get snowed in….

  • That was one of my favorite shows as a kid.

  • You can watch all of ‘Upstart Crow’ on BritBox … just sayin’.
    Also: Mum, Gavin and Stacy, and perfect to sew by: As Time Goes By.

    • Love Upstart Crow! Laughed my fanny off. Definitely a good binge between Rosemary and Thyme and Miss Marple.

    • I’m dying for someone else to watch Gavin and Stacey so I can start saying “What’s occurin’?” and “…tidy”

      • And “lush”

        • Yes, lush!

  • Loved ACG&S! Some of the accents are difficult to make out but it was such a warm show. I didn’t like the second Helen nearly as much as the first…

    • I too was sorry that the actress who first played Helen didn’t continue through all the seasons of the show. Nevertheless, I highly recommend the series.

      • PS: and of course, I’m now looking forward to the new production!

  • We just finished rewatching all 7 seasons.

  • I’ve read the books and never tire of watching the shows on PBS—oh, the knitwear! I wonder how the new show will compare.

  • You forgot to mention the fabulous cars, there are many areas of Yorkshire still like this.

  • I loved that show and the books. I got my dad hooked on it, so we watched it all the time. This was in the days of no remote control and dad as the all powerful controller of what we watched. I’ll have to re-read those books.

    Robert Hardy also played Robert Dudley in Elizabeth R, on Masterpiece Theater, with Glenda Jackson as QEI.

  • I love this show! Watched it years ago (last century ago!) – early Saturday mornings on A&E (in the “olden days” of cable). My ritual was to make my coffee, grab my knitting and watch. (My Foolish Virgins sweater-in-progress on my lap for the better part of a year!) I feel a binge coming on! Walkin’ down Memory Lane.

  • I can’t wait for the remake! I never saw the original but was given the first book as part of payment for dog sitting in my early teens and those books were favorites! I’d often escape a bad day into James Herriot’s world. Bless the lovely lady who “paid” me in books!

  • Try the books by Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Doctor. This series is set in Northern Ireland, in the 1960’s (the Troubles) and the doctors are general practitioners (they treat humans) but just as eccentric. I just went through the series like shite through a goose. It is so country Irish that there is a glossary in the back to explain all the sayings and terms used by the Ulsters.

    • My husband and I listened to the the Irish Country Doctor series on Audible. They are laugh out loud books and listening to them read in those wonderful accents was just the best!

    • I make the Wheaton Bread and the Scones from the recipes from “the housekeeper” in the back of the books. Lovely series

  • We, also, recently subscribed too BritBox. And, I am totally delighted to be watching the All Creatures episodes again. I must have seen all of them 3 times when they were on public television at 4PM on Sundays when (long winters) in 1970’s 80”s IowaI I made bread as I watched. THIS TIME I am eyeing Tristan’s sweaters. I have now seen 4 of them, and want them to go on forever. FOREVER!

  • I love Mrs. Hall.

    One of our PBS stations here in Washington DC (WETA UK, which shows all British programming) has just started showing the original series again. Heaven!

  • When I was 17 I worked on a Dorset sheep farm in Cornwall for a year before going to uni. All Creatures was relished each week, as there were only three TV channels at the time. There was A LOT of downtime on this remote moorland farm, so I learned to knit. First were mittens to cover my chilblains, then a stranded argyle vest a la Tristan was my second knitting project- haha. Nothing like jumping in with both feet!

  • Loved all the books as a kid. I can still quote vast sections from memory! And I always wanted a dog named Tricki Woo

  • In a non-knitting aside, I personally adored Helen’s dresses, and wish they would come back into style! I adored that series, watching it in my late teens and early 20’s on PBS. So good.

  • I am beyond excited for a new All Creatures miniseries. I reread my mom’s copies so much as a kid that they fell apart. It will be great to re-experience that world. And a TV adaptation may convince my 11-year-old to read the books. I have had no luck so far.

  • Read the books and loved the series. If you have Britbox Peter Davison (Tristan) plays the lead in a mystery series called “The Last Detective” and I really enjoyed it. He’s in another mystery series on Britbox too.

  • I’m parceling out Vera episodes slowly so I don’t run out. Acorn TV is missing several seasons so I will check out BritBox. 🙂

  • Have always loved ACG&S, we found great delight in chiming in with extra instances of Seigfried’s favorite line, “Let’s have a drink!”. There’s a breech calving? “Let’s have a drink!”. The train is late? “Let’s have drink!” (It’s almost as good as the Bob Newhart dinking game!!! )

  • I loved All Creatures when it first came out, both the books and the television series. And many years later I borrowed the entire series from a local library – on videocasettes! – and binge-watched. I think I must have been ill or recovering from surgery or something.
    The episode where Badger got tetanus…uncontrollable sobbing.
    I’ll offset that sad thing with something heartwarming and perhaps surprising: the goat group on Rav (of course there is) contains many very specific references to All Creatures Great and Small – because so many of us absorbed so much veterinary information from watching that show. It is really rather astonishing!

  • Sorry I missed this last Sunday. Loved all the books. Caught part of the series spottily. When I really love a book watching a good film version of it is kind of too-much-of-a-good-thing. But enough time has passed -I think! – that I can absorb it separately from the book. Thanks for the heads-up, Kay!
    BTW the knitwear in “Last Tango in Halifax” is really wonderful. The red-orange cardigan on one of the daughters in Episode 3 or 4 is so well-designed that I wanted to steal it off her shoulders – even though I am not an Autumn:).

  • A wonderful series that continues to give much heart and entertainment

  • I’m hoping someone here can satisfy my curiosity. I can’t be the only one who was swooning over the gorgeous multi-patterned striped blanket that James pulled over Kate in the scene where they were stranded overnight on the farm with the pregnant dog. I’m not a knitter but would love to know if that pattern has a name or where I can find other examples of it. Thankls so much!

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