All right, I have to say this first because I’m seeing a lot of people talking nonsense online: Virgin River is based on a book series that began well over a decade ago. It is NOT a copy of Hart of Dixie.
Now I’ve said that, I shall move on to my review!
The most important question: do I like the Netflix adaptation of Virgin River? YES! I like it much more than I expected to, have laughed out loud several times, and will continue to watch the rest of the season.
Is it perfect? Nup and nope, but overall I think they’ve done a good job.
Alexandra Breckenridge as Melinda Monroe
When I saw the first picture from the set (on Instagram, below) I knew they’d cast a good Mel. What I didn’t know was that they’d cast an outstanding Mel.
If you were to ask me who my most hated book character of all time is, I’d say Mel without hesitation. That Breckenridge has made her into a wonderful, rounded character I love is a pretty huge achievement.
The medical stuff is under control.
The thing I always found off-putting in the books was the obsession with detailed medical procedures. It squicked me out and I thought a lot of it was totally unnecessary. It’s so much better in the show – and in the background, where it belongs.
It also means “annoying, bossy Mel” has been toned down. She doesn’t get as many scenes to lecture everyone in.
Daniel Gillies as Mark
I want to marry this character. He doesn’t appear on the page in the series, but I’m very glad to meet him here.
Annette O’Toole as Hope McCrea
Yes, her character is nothing like the woman in the books, but I’m loving this version of Hope. She’s hilarious and I don’t mind that they’ve enormously expended her part.
Tim Matheson as Doc
I’m liking him more and more as the series goes on.
Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan
I had my doubts when I saw the picture on Instagram, and I’ve been proven right. It doesn’t help that Daniel Gillies is so good in his role (we’re not meant to love Mark more than Jack!). Many a person stuck with the book series specifically because of Jack’s character, and so he was going to have to be outstanding.
So far he’s someone I’d have a chat with, not marry. And – sorry – but his character is supposed to be around my age, and this version of Jack looks old enough to be my father.
Also, the little addiction side story they’ve thrown in is totally unnecessary.
Character heights and sizes.
SO MUCH is made of these huge, tough Marine Corps guys in the books. I know Hollywood is populated with men who are smaller than they look on the screen, but when Mel and Jack and Preacher are all a similar size? Doesn’t work.
The changes made to Preacher and Paige.
Now, I’m not blaming the actors here. They’re both doing an outstanding job with what was written for them. The problem is that these characters bear no resemblance whatsoever to their book characters, and their storyline is unrecognisable.
It was a clever move to make Preacher a POC, and if you take a look at the books they never actually say he’s white. I’ve commented many times in the past that author Robyn Carr has both a problem writing diversity, and is sometimes outright racist.
My issue with Preacher: where’s our shy, gentle giant gone? Why is the man of few words relentlessly lecturing Jack about his personal life? What on earth is going on … ?
As for Paige: book Paige runs away to Virgin River with her son, and I can understand that the scriptwriters thought this made her story too similar to Mel’s. I would have been fine with her already living in the town (as she does in the show). What I’m not okay with is her running a flipping bakery truck. In a tiny town where it’s snowy and cold.
Surely the writers could have come up with something better than that, because I honestly think it’s incredibly stupid …
And, so …
Books and shows are different beasts, and while a good book can’t be episodic, TV practically demands it. Cliffhangers have to be thrown in, and so I can forgive quite a few of the changes. (My scriptwriting tutor from university would be overjoyed to hear me say this!)
Overall I’m pretty fine with how the show is going, even if Jack’s not my guy and even though Preacher and Paige are suffering from some serious character assassination. Mel, Hope and Doc make up for it.
Despite my issues I’d recommend Virgin River to anyone who wants a bit of a laugh to go with their drama.