This article first appeared on Reaction.
Virgin River, Netflix
Like most people I like to find a couple of shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime to binge on. Most of my staples like House of Cards, 24, Desperate Housewives and Designated Survivor have now been discontinued, so I face the challenge of finding something new.
Somehow, this Christmas I stumbled across Virgin River, an American “feel good” series spread over two seasons and twenty episodes. It’s one of those shows where you don’t have to put much brainpower into following it, mainly because it’s got a very simple plot, and a lot of likeable characters, played by a superb cast.
It’s set in a fictional northern Californian small town called Virgin River, which appears to be located miles from anywhere in the middle of some stunning forests and mountain scenery. It has one shop, one bar, but a lot of gossips. It’s not a soap, but it could easily be turned into one as it has all the classic ingredients. It’s by no means a pacey series. If you want action, and loudness, this is not the series for you. But if you want something simple, uncomplicated and rather charming and unchallenging, then give it a try.
The series is set around two main characters – an Iraq war veteran called Jack Sheridan who runs Jack’s Bar with his fellow vet, Preacher. The second mainstay of the show is Mel Monroe, a LA midwife who moves to Virgin River to get away from the terrible experiences she has gone through over the previous year. I won’t delve too much into that because I don’t want to spoil things for you if you haven’t seen it. Suffice to say, as you go through each of the first few episodes, you start to think this is a rather Golden Pond style series, then you’re jolted from your complacency by an important revelation. At times it has echoes of Twin Peaks as the plot takes an unexpected twist. However, too often it takes a rather predictable turn. I took great delight in annoying my partner by predicting what would happen next.
The whole series revolves around the various relationships between Jack and Mel, Jack and his former girlfriend Charmain, who, needless to say doesn’t much like Mel. But there are various subplots, including a delightful teenage romance in the second series.
One thing this series does do very successfully is to portray a huge range of female characters, in a way that I don’t think it would have if it had been made ten or twenty years ago. Quite a few of the characters are middle aged or older women.
Perhaps the most delightful character is Hope, the sixty something local mayor, who has a love hate relationship with the local doctor (rather unimaginatively referred to by everyone as “Doc”, but then again if your actual name was Vernon, which would you prefer?).
The last episode of season two leaves you panting for more, following the three cliffhangers at the end. Thankfully season three is already in production.
The overwhelming feeling you’re left with after watching Virgin River is that you’d quite like to live there. I remember watching Porky’s back in 1982 and wishing my high school had been like Angel Beach High. It was that feeling of longing all over again. Lockdown has got us all thinking about how we want to spend the remaining years left to us.
I do not want to live in a big city. I want to live in Virgin River.
Virgin River is available on Netflix now.