The Darling Buds of May caught the hearts of the nation in the early 1990s, and the pressure was on for the 2021 remake – but we needn’t have worried.
After a string of very intense Sunday night dramas, including Vigil, Line of Duty and more, it’s lovely to finally have something which fails to raise your heart rate at all.
And while the writer of this review may not have been born until 1997 (sorry), it doesn’t take much to understand how important it is that the latest adaptation of H. E. Bates’ books didn’t fall short of its wildly successful predecessor.
The reboot already had a lot to live up to before it made its debut tonight, with acting legends Sir David Jason and Catherine Zeta Jones leaving big walking boots to fill from their roles as the original Pop Larkin and his free-spirited daughter Mariette (Sabrina Bartlett).
But moments into the episode, it became clear this was what Sunday night TV is destined to be: warm, cheerful and family-orientated – like the comforting end of weekend hug we all need before we go back to reality on Monday morning.
Walsh is absolutely perfick as Pop, charming his way around the village while Joanna Scanlan portrays the equally lovable Ma Larkin, her husband’s equal on every level.
The pair stick up for each other and know their rights from their wrongs, making sure to drill this through to their brood – Joanna and Bradley’s chemistry as Ma and Pop is genuinely really sweet and believable.
Of course, we can’t chat about The Larkins without mentioning the beautiful Kentish scenery – they call Kent the Garden of England for a reason. The gorgeous backdrop of some of the most quaint villages in the south east of England make you feel compelled to instantly think about day trips outside the city, gingham picnic blankets and all.
Episode one also brought in a hint of class rivalry, with village newcomer Alec, played by the always wonderful Tony Gardner, irritatingly snobbish from the start.
At one point, Pop gets his hands on a Rolls Royce, leaving his children to get on with tidying it up, with the vehicle unsurprisingly becoming the talk of the village. ‘Why have we brought a rolls Royce?’ one of the Larkin set asks, with Ma informing them it portrays them as being above the class discussions, but they quickly note: ‘Doesn’t it show the opposite of that?’
There’s a particularly enjoyable scene in which Pop manages to convince Alec one painting for sale at a charity auction is from ‘local artist’ Turner, that rather small known name, but after the latter outbids wheeler-dealer Larkin, he is furious when he discovers the work of art was whipped up by none other than Montgomery Larkin himself (Liam Middleton).
In the closing moments of tonight’s opener, we saw Pop slightly fazed for the first time as he received an unexpected visitor from the tax man, Cedric Charlton (Tok Stephen) – but with it hinted there will be romance to develop between.
All in all, this is a fabulous return for the Larkin family, and makes a overdue change from dark drama. The family dynamic is and there’s some truly interesting discussions about class to develop as a result, in a way which doesn’t feel forced or predictable. The yearning of Mariette to leave and travel feels natural for a 19-year-old, and you can’t help but want what’s best for her. Oh, and did you spot the cameo from Bradley Walsh’s son Barney…?
Granted, the Larkins isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but that’s because it doesn’t need to be. It does luckily act as the perfick side dish to those cosy autumn nights and we really can’t wait for more.
The Larkins airs Sundays at 8pm on ITV.
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