Acorn Media // 2009 // 451 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // June 3rd, 2010
Hiding out in the Scottish Highlands!
Only eight episodes of Hope Springs aired in late 2009 before being cancelled; the BBC stated this decision was made because it "did not find its audience." Indeed, the initial episode drew over six million viewers, but the audience steadily declined shortly afterward, resulting in slightly over three million tuning in for the final episode. Did the audience give up too quickly? Or did they think it was rubbish? We shall see, as Hope Springs makes its way across the pond courtesy of Acorn Media.
After serving several years in the slammer, Ellie Lagden (Alex Kingston, Doctor Who) re-joins her gangster husband Roy (Mark Frost, Blue Juice). Roy needs Ellie's help in pulling off a major heist involving stolen gems, but the plan goes awry in more ways than one; not only does Ellie get away with 3 million pounds, but she also sets Roy up as the fall guy. Along with her accomplices Shoo (Christine Bottomley, Land Girls), Hannah (Sian Reeves, Cutting It), and Josie (Vinette Robinson, Vera Drake), Ellie plans on traveling to Barbados with the loot.
The final stage of their plan involves picking up fake passports at the airport. However, when their supplier suddenly has a heart attack and dies, they are forced to think of an alternative. Out of desperation, they steal a car and drive to Scotland to find a place to hide. Eventually, they end up in the tiny hamlet of Hope Springs, where the main attraction is a hotel run by a jovial old woman named Sadie (Annette Crosbie, One Foot In The Grave). They spend the night there and, the next morning, Ellie makes the unusual decision to buy the hotel and use it as a cover while she and her cohorts figure out how to get new passports.
That's pretty much the set-up for this dismal, thoroughly unappealing show; slowly, but surely, beating itself to death as it throws in every inane contrivance from arson to murder to keep the cons stuck in this Scottish village. The inane scripts try to juggle absurd humor with outlandish mystery, yet the only thing it accomplishes is making us dislike our four leads. The creators want us to believe these women can pull off an incredible heist and yet decide to shack away in this Scottish village where the eccentric residents keep on bungling their goal every which way but loose. Needless to say, the scenario quickly loses all logic and credibility.
Somehow, the loot gets burned in a fire, forcing the women to do everything from robbing banks to stealing other people's identities. And, yet, these pinheads decide to stay in Hope Springs where they are continuously making the locals suspicious! By the halfway point, all hope for recovery goes down the drain; these "clever" crooks keep on making ultra-dumb decisions and Sadie annoyingly popping up every now and then to keep them on their toes. On top of everything else, Hope Springs seems to have more secrets and scandal than Peyton Place, only adding to the sheer preposterousness of the whole thing.
The sexy actresses, as hard as some of them try, can't rescue themselves from banality. The worst of the lot is Bottomley's character, a blonde bubblehead who has no problem scoring with a local bloke, yet she's pathetic when it comes to pulling off a crime to survive. Robinson doesn't do much but shriek and whine, while star Kingston acts like she's lost throughout. Even veteran Crosbie, a fine character actress, can't save this mess. The problem is all of them are written as shallow stereotypes, not real individuals with emotional layers. And the result is a lame excuse for escapism, with asinine characters and lots of moronic plotting.
At least Acorn's DVD presentation is top-notch. Filmed on-location in Dumfries and Galloway, the cinematography is beautifully rendered in the 1.85:1 widescreen prints. The popping colors, strong black levels, and stunning flesh tones give the show a lot of visual flamboyance. Audio is in 2.0 stereo, which is more than acceptable; environmental and background noise are nicely balanced. Dialogue is easily heard as well; those who find British slang intimidating, however, can easily choose the English SDH subtitles. As for extras, all we have is a Kingston biography and a photo gallery.
Review content copyright © 2010 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 451 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery