Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing in When Calls the Heart. Photo: Hallmark

Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing in When Calls the Heart.
Photo: Hallmark

The Show: When Calls the Heart

Where: Hallmark Channel

When: Saturdays (depends on time zones)

When Calls the Heart Review

The wholesome nature to the characters and moral dilemmas has a great old-fashioned feel to it.

I love Period Drama; what can I say? Romantic dramas, epic historical films, classic literature adaptations, period mysteries; the list could go on. But sometimes I just ‘feel’ in need of one of those TV costume dramas with that feel good emotion to uplift the spirits (i.e. Road to Avonlea, Lark Rise to Candleford, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and The Paradise as just a few examples). So after watching When Calls the Heart, the new Hallmark TV series, I should have been more entertained. Unfortunately, the production had a better premise than it did in overall execution, leaving me disappointed with only hope that episode two will be better. Don’t get me wrong, however, for there were some definite positives in Michael Landon Jr’s series.

Few shows on today are good for the whole family to watch. When Calls the Heart, while certainly not perfect, is a great choice for children of all ages, much in the Little House on the Prairie kind of way. The wholesome nature to the characters and moral dilemmas has a great old-fashioned feel to it. And while I think the really young kids will be bored, the show could intrigue both a young and old audience. Plus, because the protagonist Elizabeth Thatcher is a teacher, the stories can easily focus on the child characters, even much of the first episode about Gabe, a boy who had recently lost his father to a mining accident.

The story itself has a lot of promise, the first episode about a higher society woman who travels west to the Canadian frontiers to be a teacher. She wishes to prove herself capable to her family and to the town members who worry she might just be a little too dainty for a small mining town, a town in which several woman and their children had lost spouses/fathers to the mining accident. And while Elizabeth sets out to demonstrate her worthiness, she faces horrible dilemmas (such as accidentally burning down her living quarters) along the way. Not to mention, that there is also a handsome Canadian Mountie stationed there just because her rich father wanted to keep her protected, a fact Jack Thornton never lets Elizabeth forget.

The potential for romance between the two is likeable if a bit on the cliché end of the spectrum. The setup just felt a little too obvious and contrived. Of course they had to dislike one another and be attracted to each other at the same time. Not that I have a problem with this kind of romance if done right; here, it just felt contrived, going over the top with Elizabeth in how she constantly was on the attack from scene to scene. Thankfully, this antagonism dulled by the end of the episode. Nevertheless, it WAS grating at times and I’m not sure I love Erin Krakow in the title role either.

For me though, the biggest problem this series had was the dialogue. Maybe I’ve just seen one too many period dramas but good period dialogue has a sort of rhythm in the way the language flows. The words should feel natural without sounding modern. Regrettably, When Calls the Heart did not succeed here, with stilted dialogue that at times were painful to listen to. After just a couple of minutes in, it became apparent the actors were speaking lines rather than acting them. This just succeeded in keeping me from being entirely engrossed in the story. I feel that for Hallmark to truly succeed in their amazing endeavor for clean, faith driven period dramas, they need to take note on the examples in the past that have worked from BBC Period Dramas to the stellar work of Kevin Sullivan (Anne of Green Gables). A show CAN be uplifting and well written at the same time.

The other issue I had with the first episode, was the whole plot surrounding the plank with the final words written on it from one of the since passed on fathers. Each wife and child wanted the message to be their own, even leading to the theft of the plank. Honestly, a better story of the week could have been selected. And while there were some good emotionally touching scenes about loss, I just think that could have been achieved with something much more remarkable.

Overall Impression

While problematic, I have hopes that in the coming weeks this show could improve. Perhaps, once the writer gets more into the groove, the dialogue will begin to sound more natural. I guess we will just have to wait and see. Still, I did enjoy parts of the show with good possibility for a budding romance (Daniel Lissing as Jack seems interesting) and hopefully more engaging plots will emerge centered around the town’s villain (I do love they cast Ian Tracey from Sanctuary and Continuum). I will give this show a few more weeks with optimism it will convince me to stick around (EDIT: I’ve seen episode 2 and I do believe it is already improving).

Overall Rating

Three Star Rating border

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce

me. Aren’t you?”

Romance Rating

Three heart rating border

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a

matter of chance.”

 


RELATED:

Read my take on BBC’s The Paradise

Love clean love stories? Read my blog post about The Appeal of the Old-Fashioned Romance

If you like Christian historical romance, don’t miss my review of the very entertaining Born of Persuasion

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