Feel good with ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ on PBS MASTERPIECE

(Photo courtesy of Matt Squire/Playground Television (UK) Ltd.) Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot in “All Creatures Great and Small.”

This is the kind of show the world needs right now. PBS’ MASTERPIECE is presenting a new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small based on the beloved books by James Herriot about his adventures as a veterinarian in Yorkshire England, focusing on the lives of the locals and their animals. It is a seven-part series airing on Sundays, from January 10 to February 21, 2021. MASTERPIECE and PBS have embraced this glorious feel good show with such gusto it has already been renewed for a second season.

An engaging newcomer has the role of Herriot with Nicholas Ralph making his television debut as the vet who charms with humor, compassion and love of life. Samuel West (Mr. Selfridge, On Chesil Beach) plays Herriot’s boss Siegfried Farnon, the eccentric veterinary surgeon whose rural English countryside practice tends to all creatures great and small.

Cast: Samuel West, Nicholas Ralph, Callum Woodhouse, Anna Madeley

Mrs. Hall, the resident housekeeper is played by Anna Madeley (The Child in Time, Patrick Melrose). Siegfried’s troublesome younger brother, Tristan, is played by Callum Woodhouse (The Durrells in Corfu). The lovely Rachel Shenton (Switched at Birth, White Gold) has the role of Helen Alderson, an independent local farmer’s daughter who helps manage the family farm and care for her younger sister. Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter, Ripper Street) plays Hugh Hulton, a wealthy landowner and rival to James for Helen’s affections. The show also features the legendary Diana Rigg (Victoria, Game of Thrones) playing Mrs. Pumphrey, the grand dame owner of the overly indulged Pekingese Tricki Woo. In her final role, the late great Rigg is utterly fabulous.

Diana Rigg & Tricki Woo

The cast was very enthusiastic during the PBS interview session via Zoom for the show, with journalists from the Television Critics Association (TCA) getting schooled about the many layers of the characters in the show. But it was executive producer Colin Callender who seemed to gush the most about presenting the Herriot stories. Callender said, “There is an appetite for harking back to days gone by, a time when family and community were the sort of core values at the heart of British life. My feeling was that we are living in such a difficult and problematic time, this series would be reembraced because of that. That was before COVID-19, and I think those considerations are as relevant, if not more so, than ever.”

“I remember with great affection the days as a family when we would sit down and watch television together
when we were growing up. And my feeling was that audiences want that, and that’s clearly what’s happened during the lockdown. So the timing of this coming out is clearly apropos, and I hope it finds a whole new generation of viewers who discover the books and the characters.”

(Photo courtesy of Ed Miller/Playground Television (UK) Ltd.) Rachel Shenton as Helen Alderson and Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot in “All Creatures Great and Small.”

MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Susanne Simpson made a commitment to author James Herriot’s children, Rosie and Jim, that the show would remain faithful to the books. And that spirit lives in the new and relevant production. Simpson noted, “It has been up to the writers to take the original material and try to work with it with a perspective from today.”

It’s still set in the 1930s, but Callender said, “We felt there was a way to make it work for a contemporary
audience, even though it was set in the period. We felt that the psychological underpinning of the characters could be explored more fully. We felt that the role of women in this society could be dramatized more fully and center stage. There’s enormous humor in the books, and I think that comes through in this series.”

Nicholas Ralph said getting the gig to play Herriot is surreal after growing up in the Scottish Highlands and doing some theater work. He’s never had a TV or film role until now. “It’s just incredible. I am absolutely loving it.” That includes simulating birthing a calf with a back end of a cow prosthetic. “I still have moments where I pinch myself,” he said with glee.

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.