Review: Historical Fiction · Review: Teen Fiction · Uncategorized

TV Show Review: Anne of Avonlea (BBC, 1975)

This sequel to the BBC’s Anne of Green Gables miniseries (which I have not reviewed because I cannot seem to find it anywhere) is adapted from Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. At 6 50-minute episodes, this mini-series clocks in at over 5 hours.

This review will contain only minor spoilers.

This show is incredibly faithful to the source material. There are events whose orders are switched around, and other minor changes, but for the most part it is a straightforward adaptation that takes the two books straight to the screen.

Because the books are so episodic, one would think that they would be perfectly suited to a TV show. But much like the CBC mini-series, this is less of a TV series than it is a 5-hour movie that had to be parsed into pieces. Every time that an episode would end and the credits would run, I found it jarring, because it would be in the middle of some story. The intent,  I have no doubt, was to create cliffhanger endings to the episode, but because this is not a suspenseful story, the fact that the episode just stops mid-story was extremely jarring.

I wonder if this opinion would differ if I were watching this at a time when I was subjects to a TV schedule, however.

The one major change made is that certain events are moved to occur earlier, so that the development of Anne and Gilbert’s romance is more to the forefront. I call this a major change, yet I hesitate to use that phrase because the books made the state of things abundantly clear in characters’ thoughts or a line of narration here or there. The impending romance was obvious to the readers,  even if the characters were unaware. Some lines were switched around to make things clearer in this show, but implications are very different from actual plot progression.

Oddly enough, the one change that bothered me was a minor one. Some lines were switched around at the end–instead of two characters talking about their misunderstandings, a third party informs one party of the second party’s thoughts and feelings. This creates a nicer final shot, but I would so have preferred to see the two characters discuss their own affair rather than have things explained to them second-hand. It did offer the chance for the show to end where it did, poetically and symbolically, without the need to insert a dialogue afterwards, which was no doubt the goal of this change. I liked the effect it had on the ending; I did not like the dialogue that led us there.

Typically of period dramas from the ’70s, there is a great deal of over-acting from today’s standpoint. Perhaps because I had already seen so many versions of this same story made more recently, it took me a little getting used to. Once I had gotten used to it, it grew on me rapidly as did this adaptation. After I had adjusted, it drew me in and held me fast all through to the end.

This was among my favorites, neck-to-neck with the 2016 PBS movie; and it is my favorite of the sequel adaptations.

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