'The Larkins,' streaming, Acorn TV
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Adapted from the popular novel "The Darling Buds of May" by H.E. Bates, the rollicking English period comedy "The Larkins" is, for the most part, a lark.
Its fast-and-loose attitude toward traditional marriage, however, together with some sexual innuendo, mark it as less than family-friendly.
Three one-hour episodes of the six-part series are streaming now on Acorn TV, with new chapters debuting Mondays through Jan. 10.
The eponymous clan lives on a rambling farm-meets-junkyard in the quaint town of Littlechurch in 1958. The series' warmth, sunny outlook and escapist fun are reminiscent of PBS' "All Creatures Great and Small," but with fewer animals, more kids and broader jokes.
Ruling the roost are "Pop" Larkin (Bradley Walsh) and his common-law wife, "Ma" (Joanna Scanlan). Together they have six unruly children. The eldest also is the standout: lovely daughter Mariette (Sabrina Bartlett).
Longing for adventure beyond Littlechurch's gates, Mariette shocks all by announcing that she is moving to France. "I don't want to be trapped in the same old village with the same old faces for the rest of my life," she says.
But Mariette quickly sidelines her plans when two potential suitors arrive in town. Tom Fisher (Stephen Hagan) is a dashing young investor who plans to open a luxury hotel that would transform the sleepy community. His temperamental foil, nervous tax inspector Cedric "Charley" Charlton (Tok Stephen), has been dispatched from his London office to investigate Pop.
There's much for Charley to probe because Pop is an old-fashioned wheeler-dealer who could charm the skin off a snake. The Larkins live (and eat) like royalty without any apparent income from their patriarch, who describes himself as a gentleman farmer yet drives a Rolls Royce.
But Pop also is generous, a latter-day Robin Hood, which earns him the affection and loyalty of his neighbors.
The family unites behind Pop's scheme to distract Charley -- an easy task, as it turns out, since the newcomer is instantly besotted with Mariette. A fish out of water, city-dweller Charley comes to appreciate the beauties of nature along with the joys of laidback country living.
Based on the first trio of installments, "The Larkins" goes down like comfort food. But it's only suitable for a limited audience.
Director Andy De Emmony and writers Simon Nye and Abigail Wilson have toned down some of the controversial elements of Bates' novel, yet they've retained others. Thus, along with the mature material mentioned above, the playtime antics of the Larkin kids are sometimes-dangerous stunts not to be tried at home.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.