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Reaction Media Review Column 34: Virgin River

This article first appeared on Response.

Virgin River, Netflix

Like most people, I like to find a few shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime to dive into. Most of my staples like House of Cards, 24, Desperate Housewives and Designated Survivor have now been discontinued, so I am faced with the challenge of finding something new.

Somehow this Christmas I stumbled upon Virgin River, an American “feel good” series that spans two seasons and twenty episodes. It’s one of those shows that you don’t have to use a lot of brains to follow, mainly because it has a very simple plot and lots of personable characters played by a great cast.

It’s located in a fictional small Northern California town called Virgin River, which appears to be miles away from breathtaking forests and mountainous landscapes. There is a shop, a bar, but a lot of rumors. It’s not a soap, but it could easily be turned into one as it has all of the classic ingredients in it. It’s by no means a fast-paced series. If you want action and volume, this is not the series for you. But if you want something simple, straightforward, charming, and undisputed, give it a try.

The series revolves around two main characters – an Iraq war veteran named Jack Sheridan, who runs Jack’s Bar with fellow veterinarian Preacher. The show’s second prop is Mel Monroe, an LA midwife who moves to Virgin River to escape the horrific experience she had over the past year. I’m not going to get into this too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you haven’t seen it. Suffice it to say that as you go through each of the first few episodes you start to think that it is a golden pond style series, and then that one important revelation tears you out of your complacency. Sometimes it is reminiscent of Twin Peaks as the plot takes an unexpected turn. Too often, however, it takes a pretty predictable turn. I was very excited to piss my partner off by predicting what would happen next.

The whole series revolves around the various relationships between Jack and Mel, Jack and his ex-girlfriend Charmain, whom Mel obviously doesn’t particularly like. But there are various subplots, including an adorable teen romance in the second series.

One thing that makes this series very successful is portraying a variety of female characters in ways that I wouldn’t believe if it had been made ten or twenty years ago. Quite a few of the characters are middle-aged or older women.

Perhaps the most adorable character is Hope, the sixty-year-old mayor who has a love-hate relationship with the local doctor (rather unimaginatively referred to as “Doc” by everyone, but if your name is actually Vernon, which one would you prefer?).

The final episode of season two leaves you gasping for more after the three cliffhangers at the end. Fortunately, the third season is already in production.

The overwhelming feeling you have after watching Virgin River is that you would love to live there. I remember seeing Porky’s in 1982 and wishing my high school was like Angel Beach High. It was the feeling of longing again. Lockdown made us all think about how we want to spend the remaining years.

I don’t want to live in a big city. I want to live in Virgin River.

Virgin River is now available on Netflix.

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