Review: The brilliant All Creatures Great and Small is a bracing hint of nostalgia that's worth waiting in line for
It’s at times like these – times of great national schism, of uncertainty, of five-mile long queues – that you might feel the need to retreat into the idea that the past was somehow a more golden time of carefree days and sleep-filled nights.
Retreat, in fact, to the Yorkshire Dales and the Darrowby of All Creatures Great and Small (C5, Thurs, 9pm), which has returned for a third series.
This is a world where a stag do which leaves everyone comically hungover, a dog us suspected of swallowing a wedding ring and a last-minute dash to the altar leads a to a confetti-strewn happy ending.
All Creatures Great and Small could be twee, cosy, unthreatening fluff – a way of forgetting all your troubles and switching off for an hour. But that would mean it would quickly become forgettable, disposable, unwatchable.
As it turns out, it balances the nostalgia with a bracing unsentimentality – a farmer worries about TB in his herd, and fears it infecting the human populace of Darrowby. Cows are shot in a field. And the spectre of war looms over the Dales like a steel-grey thundercloud.
It’s played perfectly – Nicholas Ralph as James Herriott is the still, calm centre around which Helen, Tristan and the rest revolve, while James’ boss Siegfried (Samuel West) hides a heart of gold behind bumptiousness and bluster.
His relationship with housekeeper Mrs Hall (Anna Madeley) is a thing of beauty – both dealing with loss, helping each other through it.
All Creatures Great and Small shows you the darker side of the world while giving you a comforting hug. If you must get lost in the past, get in the queue to see it.
The Great British Bake-Off (C4, Tues, 9pm) also returned this week, another warm embrace of a show. Nothing bad can happen while the bakers battle in the tent and there is a whole batch of double entendres flying around the ovens. It’s amazing how quickly favourites emerge from the baker’s dozen too – Sandro and Syabira for the final.
The second series of The Capture (BBC1, Sun/Mon, 9pm) came to an end with a fairly major twist – although one which had been signposted. It still seems far-fetched, but the more you hear about cyber-wars, the more unsettling it becomes. However, the ending seems to put paid to a third series.