We hadn’t had one of these quirky “Ballykissangel” sort of location TV series for a while. I must admit I really looked forward to this one.
What a disappointment!
The premiss with these kind of shows is that someone from the big wide and nasty world arrives at an idyllic but naive distant location either in Ireland or in Scotland. The “backward and ethnocentric” locals don’t take too kindly to the new arrivals and so conflict ensues. It’s a formula which often works well but it has to be applied skilfully in a way that doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence…too much.
The premiss for “Hope Springs” is that four female ex-cons have stolen lots of money and they are on the run. Their hope (get it?) is to reach Barbados and live on the beach for the rest of their lives.
Quite frankly, I wish that they had made it to their destination so that we would have been spared the rest of “Hope Springs”. But they strike trouble and so head for a tiny village in Scotland to “lie low”. There have been minor obstacles in their plans to abscond with the stash. They are also being hunted by evil Marius who is very determined to get the money back for his gangster boss…who is the husband of one of the women!
One of their minor obstacles is that they can’t get a passport while they are lying low and another obstacle is that they have to find somewhere to live while they are in this prone position.
This is where the Hope Springs Hotel comes in. They decide to buy it from an eccentric little old lady called Sadie Cairncross played by excellent actress Annette Crosby of “One Foot in the Grave” fame. I suppose the temptation of doing more TV was just too much for Annette and so she accepted this embarrassing role.
Sadie wants to sell but there’s a nasty daughter involved who’s having an affair and a baby with the professional villain of the series, the village lawyer. To complicate matters (as if they needed complicating) Sadie’s daughter is engaged to the village policeman who is a nice guy but a bit of a dill.
Sadly, there is no real hunk in “Hope Springs.” Couldn’t they find just one attractive man?
Anyhow, for a one-horse town like Hope Springs, which is even smaller than the Midsomer collection of venues, there are many exciting incidents. There’s murder, a missing man, arson, larceny, adultery, betrayals, geriatric abuse, real estate moghuls on the prowl, love affairs and even cooking. You have all the ingredients for an interesting series and yet it’s an abysmal flop.
So what does it lack? Well, the script is so implausible that it is annoying. Four women on the run who haven’t a clue about anything. There’s hardly a brain between them and yet they manage to overcome ridiculous odds because their antagonists are even sillier than they are. It’s a scenario from one of Breughel’s paintings of village idiots.
I was intrigued by the fact that one of the women could purchase a computer in just a couple of minutes in this tiny, tiny village and then set it up in the primitive hotel which, from its dilapidated appearance, did not seem to be connected to the internet. There’s always dial-up, I suppose, but even I had to wait a while to get my computer from an Apple distributor
These would-be tycoons are seriously uninteresting in themselves. I ended up by barracking for the monstrous Marius to catch up with them to put them out of my misery.
Well, guess what? After eight episodes the series was abandoned. I must admit that I watched the first three episodes in the hope that it would improve. You see, hope springs eternal but not forever, apparently.
Even I gave up on this BBC series and that’s saying something because I usually enjoy British television.
Oh well, I’ll have to settle for repeats of murder and mayhem in Midsomer. Now that was a good series while the brilliant Anthony Horowitz (of Foyle’s War fame) was involved but recently it too has become quite silly since Horowitz left.
You really can’t beat good writing, good acting and a good production. That’s the only things that “Hope Springs” lacked.