The work of Gerald Durrell formed a small part of the background of my childhood, from his books (My Family and Other Animals) and nature shows on TV to a trip to Jersey zoo. Still, it wasn’t something I’d thought about in years, and when this TV show popped up I wasn’t initially all that keen. An episode while feeling poorly, however – it is excellent pick-me-up, low-effort viewing! – changed that.
When Gerry’s around the age of 10, his long-widowed mother decides to move the family from a grey and depressing life in England to the sun of Corfu. The TV show doesn’t mention it, but they’d lived in India before Mr Durrell’s death, so perhaps not quite the massive upheaval portrayed.
The TV show also changes the focus from that of young Gerry (merrily collecting living specimens of every creature on the island!) to that of his mother, Louisa (Keeley Hawes), as she attempts to make a new life for herself and four somewhat scatty, irresponsible offspring among the Greek locals.
I have almost no recollection of the books, but I surmise this compares poorly. It’s been thoroughly modernised – or rather, it’s been made with such an eye for what nostalgia thinks the 1930s were like. I could see this being a huge irritation to some, but to be honest I rather enjoyed the whole series as a bit of gentle fun. Are there flaws? So many, from the rather ‘peasant-y’ portrayal of the locals to the upper-middle class twits the family can come across as at times. Still, there was no malice to any of it, and the whole thing still comes across rather sweetly.
I wouldn’t rave about The Durrells, but I’m quietly happy that a second series has been commissioned. Sunday evenings need a bit of ‘nice’.
First broadcast: April 2016
Episodes: 6 @ ~60 mins each
My rating: 7/10 – sweet and lovely Sunday evening telly, with a touch of (fake) nostalgia