Shed Productions' Footballers' Wives and Waterloo Road series creators Ann McManus and Maureen Chadwick craft another (albeit short-lived) female-centric BBC series of sudsy entertainment that provides the ultimate in escapist summer weekend entertainment with this Acorn Media Group release.
The equivalent of a fun, forgettable beach read paperback you pick up at an airport on your way to an island destination, Hope Springs is fittingly about a quartet of women longing to live it up in the sun, surf and sand of Barbados after a three million pound robbery.
Yet even though the crime goes as smoothly as suntan lotion, the four find out the hard way that there's no such thing as one perfect final score when life deals them a different hand that does not involve brand new, fake passports.
Stuck without identification in a world of heightened security, the group headed up by Alex Kingston's Ellie Lagden decide to take the loot and go off on the lam U.K. style, winding up in the Scottish Highlands village of Hope Springs, where they hope to lie low to avoid the suspicion of both the authorities and Ellie's ex whom they ripped off for as long as it takes to obtain new documents.
Holed up at a rustic inn in the middle of the boonies, the girls including the loose-lipped, loud-mouthed Shoo (Christine Bottomley), sweetly domestic Hannah (Sian Reeves), and loyal Josie (Vinette Robinson) find themselves the temporary owners of the failing hotel and pub, assuming that closing it for renovations is the best cover around.
But when they discover that the hotel is the sight of an unsolved deadly mystery, the inn-keeper's daughter is engaged to the local handsome copper (Paul Higgins), a hitman has been dispatched to find them, and more than just their plans go up in smoke, soon the thieves become unlikely businesswomen trying to disprove the cultural prejudice shared by the locals when it comes to Londoners.
Infused with a breezy humor and whimsy – not unlike another fish-out-of-water Acorn DVD release Doc Martin -- and a wholly original premise, there seemed to be a lot going for BBC's infectiously fun series that was greatly bolstered by its snappy pace and unfailingly likable cast.
While you do need to toss logic out the window from time to time as some plot contrivances click a little too conveniently into place for my liking, on the whole, Hope Springs seemed far more structurally sound than last year's summer DVD debut of the gender opposite criminals-out-in-the-open, similarly themed and canceled series The Invisibles with Anthony Stewart Head.
Ideal for a long weekend indoors to beat the heat and suitable for armchair travelers thanks to the picturesque scenery, Hope Springs is a mindlessly diverting and easily enjoyable alternative to far too many gritty police procedural series, although it must be warned that the series ending cliffhanger is sure to anger viewers since it won't ever be resolved due to its premature conclusion.
While Wikipedia reveals that the BBC posted onscreen text wrapping up the series in a more concrete fashion than the open-ended finale, one wishes that either the same text or a quickly edited or event reshot ending or spirited extra feature would've been included so as to avoid taking viewers out of the show with a jarring, unsatisfactory wrap-up.
Yet despite this irritating flaw that will no doubt send you into conversation with friends as you try and come up with some plausible ways to choose the girls' adventure, overall there's an awful lot to recommend Hope Springs for those looking for the UK equivalent of another USA Network style sunny escapade... tropical island not included.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD