Prime to Debut Durrells (and Other Animals)

Prime at last will premiere feelgood crowdpleaser The Durrells.

Based on naturalist Gerald Durrell’s memoir of growing up on Corfu in the 1930s, My Family And Other Animals, it was widely praised when it screened six months ago on Sunday nights in the UK and quickly renewed.

The Daily Mail hailed it as “a masterclass in ideal Sunday telly — never too demanding, and yet completely satisfying”.

Concurred The Telegraph: “The Durrells may be up against the perennially popular Antiques Roadshow, but it has all the classic ingredients for Sunday night viewing: warmth, nostalgia, beautiful locations and a star, in Keeley Hawes.”

It marked screenwriter Simon (Men Behaving Badly) Nye’s second crack at adapting Durrell’s book, after penning a 2005 dramatisation. (There was also a series adaptation in the late 1980s.)

“Nye has returned to a favourite subject with evident  gusto and produced something of a gem,” The Telegraph said. “For one thing he confidently – not to say gleefully – cast off the chains of making a strictly faithful adaptation.

“The result is a series that’s not only sun-drenched and liberating, but also catches its source material’s high good humour without labouring it, and weaves an authentic sense of the innocent exoticism of the original.”

The Guardian dubbed it a “rollicking delight” and in an interview with executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle, revealed it was conceived as a long-running series for ITV’s biggest night of the week.

“We wanted sunshine and escapism, and not anything too slight or sweet or patronising,” she said. “We don’t want to be too sickly sweet about it. Anything that feels a bit cute we will try to undercut it. At the same time, it has to be something that’s incredibly pleasurable and a joy to watch.”

In the UK, it aired before 8pm on Sundays whereas Prime has scheduled it for 8.30 Wednesdays from October 26.

The programming seems as peculiar as TV1’s scheduling of the like-minded Our Zoo for post-8.30 Thursday viewing last year (which it’s repeating late-night Sundays).

Presumably, Prime thought Sunday evenings too competitive, with TV1’s Sunday, TV2’s Australian Survivor and TV3’s House Rules.

But The Durrells would have provided refreshing family fare in a zone overrun by factual entertainment.

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