After a jolly good time viewing “Downton Abbey,” young adult viewers might just take a fancy to “Land Girls.”
Commissioned on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and first broadcast on BBC1 in 2009, “Land Girls” won the Best Daytime Programme Award at the country’s Broadcast Awards and Best Drama honors at the Royal Television Society Awards. The five-part series will be broadcast on Thursdays at 7 p.m. on KUED beginning June 14.
Stateside, Americans had Rosie the Riveter and other women who entered the workforce as widespread enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. A British wartime institution known as the Women’s Land Army recruited and trained young women from cities to replace U.K. farm workers who had gone off to fight.
“Land Girls” follows the lives and loves of four girls away from home who adapt to their new surroundings and quickly realize that their lives will never be the same. Their work is balanced between the run-down Pasture Farm and the opulent Hoxley Manor, giving the city dwellers two perspectives of country living. While they have a common goal of serving their country, Nancy, Joyce, Bea and Annie began working for the WLA for different reasons.
Annie has joined WLA with her younger sister Jo, who has lied about her age to sign up, to flee an abusive father. Jo’s life will change dramatically after she is pressured into a quick sexual encounter with an American GI and becomes pregnant at the end of the first episode. Nancy is a rich girl who misses her family home comforts and would rather be enjoying her privileged life. Joyce is terrified of losing her Royal Air Force husband.
Lighthearted moments are mixed with romance and drama as the women grapple with the war. At a weekend dance with servicemen in the area, a U.S. soldier is asked where he is from. Idaho, he responds. “Well, if you don’t know where you’re from, who does?”
The drama of “Land Girls” is not nearly as layered as “Downton Abbey,” but somehow when Afternoon Specials like this are spoken in proper Queen’s English, the drama seems more important. Add in the lush surroundings of the English countryside of the film’s location shooting — on a working farm near Henry-in-Arden in Warwickshire and an ancestral home known as Arbury Hall serves as the estate owned by film’s Lord and Lady Hoxley — and viewers, especially those with the same interest as the young woman at the center of the story, will find “Land Girls” a pleasant diversion.