Reviewer: Charity Bishop
As a child I would curl up in front of my television set every Saturday morning to watch the adventures of Sarah Stanley in Avonlea, the charming little Prince Edward Island village made famous through the Anne books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. A Canadian production with a family-based intention, The Road to Avonlea never provided anything but classic, innocent entertainment. With intelligent writing, unforgettable characters, and truly touching scenes, it is a series that everyone will enjoy. The second season begins with Sarah (Sarah Polly) being called back to the mainland to live with her father again. After her mother's death, Sarah was taken to Avonlea to stay with her two spinster aunts, Hetty (Jackie Borroughs) and Olivia King (Mag Ruffan). Having come to love her extended family, Sarah is sorry to leave but eager to be back with her beloved papa again.
The day of her arrival he is called to the shipyards to oversee various business arrangements, and is killed in a freak accident. Now orphaned and left under the care of her posh nanny, Sarah must contend with the loss of her father and wonder if she is to be taken back to Avonlea. Events set in motion her future life with the aunts, who have their own battles to wage. Olivia is working as a reporter for the local newspaper, threatened to go under by competing papers. Hetty must contend with the reappearance of an old beau that she swore never to speak to again. Alec King (Cedric Smith) has a rambunctious household in which his eldest daughter, Felicity (Gema Zamprogna), is in a hurry to grow up. Then there are the townspeople, charming and disagreeable alike. The local gossips use any excuse to make a scandal out of a single incident, and there's plenty of news to go around.
Marilla Cuthbert takes in two orphans that Rachael Lynde loathes, a local musician learns to read, and Miss Stacie returns from the mainland, sending wavers of excitement through the townspeople and earning a horrified shudder from Hetty King. There are first kisses, old romances, shenanigans from overly enthusiastic children, a kidnapping or two, and several heart-wrenching twists. If you're not laughing, you're smiling, and if you're not smiling, you're crying. It had been many years since I'd watched these and they're like returning to an old friend. There are aspects that you remember, and others that surprise you. It's a fragrance of former days when innocence in television was the norm, when a family could watch together without one hand on the remote, when language was nonexistent and childish games wholly sweet in temper. It's one of the stories that shaped my growing years, that made me long for the next episode to come, that resulted in many conversations about Avonlea, and caused me to spend hours daydreaming in the back yard, wearing a bonnet and lace-up shoes.
Introducing a new generation to the marvelous world of Avonlea is something I encourage every parent to do. There are very mild issues in some of the episodes, but most are wholly decent. Unfortunately the first episode in this season includes a sance. Sarah wants to contact her father and goes into a gypsy caravan to find a fortune teller. The woman does so realistically and only afterward do we learn it was an elaborate hoax. (To be fair, I'm not sure how bad it is, since we fast-forwarded that scene.) Sarah learns this the difficult way; the Kings are God-fearing and church-attending. Most of the religious aspect is excellent, although it's hinted at later that a traveling Methodist minister had multiple illegal marriages. Sarah and Felix get a love potion from a "witch" in the woods (Peg is actually a farce; she adopted her reclusive habits to keep children from bothering her). Peg also threatens someone with a curse. There is never any bad language, but characters do use "Good Lord!" as an exclamation of annoyance or surprise. Romance is definitely woven throughout but in sweet ways.
Felicity reads romance novels (none of them are vulgar) and daydreams about being kissed. She makes a fool out of herself cheering on a boy at a cricket match. She does get her kiss... on the cheek! She stuffs tissues down the front of her dress. Alec takes a bath in the kitchen in which everyone seems to traipse in and out (the tub is covered). Rachael Lynde reveals a thirty-year obsession with a man she met when she was young, intimating that she cried herself to sleep over him long after her marriage. As risqu as the series ever gets is by showing off corsets and bloomers. Hetty falls into the creek and her skirt comes off (still leaving her modestly covered, but the town has a fantastic laugh at her expense). Rachael's corset winds up on a pig thanks to the exploits of an enthusiastic child. The series is full of fun quips, various adventures, encounters with motor cars, old photographs, and a few mysteries. It's a tasteful program that your entire family will enjoy.