The entire world is cooped up at home streaming some form of media. Whether its Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Disney or Pornhub we’re all watching a ton of it. Since entering my lockdown four weeks ago I’ve been catching up on HBO’s Westworld & Curb Your Enthusiasm, finally started season three of Netflix’s The Crown while also starting Longmire, Russian Doll & Dead To Me. The aforementioned were all shows I was watching or had been meaning to check out, yet in the world of streaming media every now & then you find yourself an unexpected gem. I found one.
Now I’m not saying my forthcoming enthusiastic recommendation of this “find” is on par with imploring everyone on this side of the galaxy to watch The Wire or convincing someone to finally give Game of Thrones a spin, but in these uncertain times the smallest glimmer of joy could unlock the doorway to a more positive tomorrow…and beyond.
Netflix’s Virgin River tells the story of an L.A. nurse looking to leave her past behind and start anew in a tiny NorCal town. Virgin River is a show that feels like its the one project Lifetime hired real writers for. The overall ambiance of the show for viewers is that soft safeness one would find in an October release of a Hallmark Channel’s new Christmas vehicle. You know the ones where you just know the dog that the babysitter and formerly disturbed youth neighbor from across the lake found as teenagers would have puppies right after he proposed to her at her college graduation right after her name was called. That kind of feel. Right?
Well, that is the initial vibe here, specially during the first episode. Yet, much like most Netflix projects, VR steps in line with the quality the streamer has been known for right around midway through episode 2. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the cast of the drama’s roughly 45 minute episodes.
The lead role of Mel, the new young pretty nurse in town, is played by a relatively unknown. I had never seen nor heard of Alexandra Breckenridge prior to peeping Virgin River, but fans of This Is Us will at least recognize her if not know her by name as she’s been playing the character of “Sophie” on NBC’s emotional drama since 2017. A completely different television fan base would also be familiar with her work as Alexandra also voiced many characters on the Seth MacFarlane hit Family Guy from 2005-2018.
Accompanying Breckenridge are two longtime veteran actors in Tim Matheson & Annette O’Toole. O’Toole has made a career of working in television as her credits go all the way back to shows like My Three Sons, The Virginian, Hawaii Five-O & Barnaby Jones. A far younger generation of tv viewer may recognize her from 21st century shows like Smallville and The Punisher. Matheson on the other hand is probably way more recognizable to viewers. Tim’s credits also go way back to shows like Leave It To Beaver, Space Ghost, Bonanza and much like his Virgin River character counterpart O’Toole, The Virginian. Yet, Matheson is probably most well known and recognizable as Delta Tau’s Otter in the party classic Animal House. I can also strongly recommend checking out his roles in Fletch and one of my favorite Mel Brooks films, To Be Or Not To Be. Matheson also had a 20+ episode run on the NBC hit West Wing, if that does anything for you.
The only other actor of note to mention here is Martin Henderson who plays Jack Sheridan, a troubled Iraq vet who owns the one bar in town and quickly develops an eye for the visiting nurse. When I first saw Henderson in the first VR episode I immediately said “OH SHIT! That’s the guy in Smokin’ Aces who gets his fingers blown off by the crazy dudes!”. Yes, Henderson was in the celebrity packed 2006 Smokin’ Aces (a favorite of mine) and he was also the “friend” of Naomi Watts’ character in the 2002 horror mystery hit The Ring. Henderson brings a Sam Shepard-like vibe to his character topped with a gentle touch of steel & grit which really helps elevate the entire show.
If you’re looking for a super heavy, in-depth Ozark-type show Virgin River may not be for you, but if you’re looking for a nice show with a good story and some decent drama with some pretty scenery and Lifetime & Hallmark Channel aren’t cutting it, then VR could be just the thing for you to binge on for a few days. And if you end up a fan of the show…a second season is FORTHCOMING.