I am absolutely thrilled to swellissimus tears to announce this guest post by my dear blogging friend, practically-sister, kindred spirit and Tween--- Miss Melody, who writes the delightful blog Regency Delight. Melody was Yet Another Period Drama Blog's very first follower, and in the five months that have passed since then, she and I have developed an awesomely amazing friendship and at least half a dozen hilarious nicknames for each other and at least two or three dozen ridiculous acronyms. (Right, my adorable little Elf? It all MMFHI! Sorry. Inside jokes there.) Just go read some of those "kindred spirit" definitions on the Anne tag and you'll understand what kind of friendship I'm talking about. We are soooo going to meet in person someday, and that you may tie to.
Anyway, Melody most kindly agreed to write a guest post for me, and.... well, I'll let her explain all that herself. Thanks so, so much for doing this, Mellow D.!
When Miss Dashwood asked me if I had any suggestions for her Anne week, I said she should do a review of Road to Avonlea. Her exact response was: "I think it is a splendid idea, but I also think that YOU should be the one to write the review. You are much more knowledgeable about that show than I am, having seen more episodes..."
Is there an Avonlea fan in the world who could have resisted? I, at least, could not.
Road to Avonlea (or "Tales from Avonlea" as seen when aired by Disney) is my favorite TV series, and this was a good prompt to finally write a review, as I've been meaning to do for some time. I find it rather sad how little known Avonlea seems to be in this dear but blissfully ignorant blogging realm! Please tell me there is another fan out there somewhere who is reading this. It's delightful period drama, folks.
Where to begin? It is impossible for me to summarize an entire TV series with seven seasons. Road to Avonlea, as the title should inform you, has the writings of L.M. Montgomery (who, you must know, wrote the Anne books) at its center. The ideas for Avonlea (which it is often shortened to among fans) came from L.M. Montgomery's books The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea. Though Anne is, sadly, never in the show, several characters in connection with our Anne are. There are also some actor doubles to "heehee!" at. But I'll get to all that later.
The series starts out with the story of Sara Stanley, a young girl whose father is a wealthy businessman. When he becomes entangled in a law crisis, Sara is sent to stay with relatives on her late mother's side in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island.
That's just the beginning episode. From there, the viewer is whirled into the lives of... well, everybody in Avonlea.
(I don't know where to stick this, so I'll just say it here: the story is set in 1903-1912. Which is another thing I like about the show. I just love the Edwardian era.)
The Main Characters
First of all, let's get the King siblings straight, if we can. They are Hetty, Alec, Olivia, and Ruth.
Ruth isn't actually in the show because she's dead before it starts (please excuse the morbidness). She married Blair Stanley, and Sara is their daughter.
Hetty never marries, so she's just Hetty King with no children. Easy to explain, at least.
Olivia and Hetty live together until Olivia marries in the 3rd season and becomes Olivia Dale.
Alec King married Janet, and their children are Felicity, Felix, Cecily, and Daniel, the latter of whom is born in the second season and is too young to be of much consequence so you don't need to remember him. (Although I suppose now, you will.)
That probably didn't help any if you're not familiar with the show. Well, I tried. *clears throat* On to the next.
Residing at Rose Cottage
"One day my tombstone will read: here lies Sara Stanley. She was dull and then she died."
~Enter Prince Charming, Season 5 (Yes, there are often episode names which are taken from chapters in L.M.M. books. Is not that nice?)
As I mentioned above, Sara starts out as the main character, but as the series continues she's just about the same as the other prominent characters. In fact, she's not in the 7th and final season at all (away at school, I believe), save a guest appearance in the last episode.
Some people consider Sara to be a boring character (including herself, it seems, in the episode quoted above), but I don't quite agree. She may not be changeable or feisty, but I think she's rather interesting. Especially when she's younger, because she's imaginative, likes to be dramatic, and has romantic ideas.
Sara is friendly, has a good sense of humor, is clever enough, and always sticks up for her friends.
"Responsible? You?? That would be the frosty Friday."
~But When She Was Bad... (Season 3)
Oh yes, Aunt Hetty is always there. In my opinion she is terribly annoying most of the time but then there are those episodes where you kind of like her. Then she does something that makes you hate her again.
Hetty is domineering and seems to think she knows everything. (You know the kind.) She is quite rude sometimes, too. She can also be funny, however. And she has a strong sense of loyalty. While she's not too concerned about offending people, well, if she hears a word said against someone or something she cares about, she tells them off. Which can come in quite useful when there are backbiters about (not too uncommon in Avonlea).
Hetty is oldest of the King siblings (and won't let you forget it!). For most of the series she teaches at Avonlea Public School. She is also an author part of the time. She becomes a mother figure to Sara, as clearly represented in A Mother's Love (Season 2), one of the highest-rated episodes of all time.
Olivia King Dale
I love Olivia. She's probably my favorite adult character in the whole show. She's kind, very likable, and a peacemaker. Though 'meek' is often a good word for her, when someone needs to be defended (including herself, actually, what with Hetty as an older sister) she can get quite worked up and does a very good job of telling them what's what. She's clever and amusing. She also has the most wonderful Edwardian fashions and looks so nice all the time. (Hehe.)
She marries in the first episode of Season 3 (The Ties That Bind), but more about all that later. She actually only lives at Rose Cottage in seasons 1 and 2, but I've put her in this category anyways.
Residing at King Farm
Alec and Janet King
"Come now Janet, let's not be coy. Everyone knows you pursued me like a terrier."
"Oh, Alec! What a perfectly dreadful thing to say!" *runs out of room*
~How Kissing Was Discovered (Season 2)
(That's not a very good quote to describe the relationship between Janet and Alec, but it makes me laugh.)
What is there to say about Janet and Alec? But then, what is there not to say? I don't know. I like them. They're a sweet couple. They seem like real people. They go through real life stuff. They're the parents of Felicity and Felix - that can't be easy. I rather like it when they randomly start waltzing. They're typical and original at the same time. They're just another example of the swellness of this show.
"I am known throughout Avonlea for the excessive amount of cherries in my pies."
~Proof of the Pudding (Season 1)
Felicity... how to describe her? Well, when she's younger she's pretty much a snobbish, bossy brat who's always fighting with her little brother Felix; she's conceited, stubborn, prone to hurtful remarks, and still taking delight in not getting along with Felix when she gets a bit older. But you don't really dislike her the whole time, either. She's self-centered, but not completely hardened and she does sometimes regret her mistakes. She's amusing, but that's just given for almost any Avonlea character. A lot of the time you just want to strangle her for being so annoying (especially when she's rude to Gus...), but you can relate to her and will often root for her, as it were. You can see her changing a little in Season 6, and in Season 7 she's almost suddenly way different. Nicer, that is. She's still determined and vivacious, but she puts it to good use.
"Maybe she only comes out at night, when the moon is full, and pounces on little children!!"
~Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's (Season 1... by the way, the first picture goes with this quote.)
Felix... haha. Well, he's just Felix. I can't explain him very well. He's the usual mischievous little brother who takes delight in vexing his older sister and is always getting into trouble. He can be pretty annoying when he's younger, but very funny, too. I think I like him better as a young man, (like in seasons 6 and 7), but he has his annoying moments then, too. In Season 5 he starts working at the White Sands Hotel with Gus. That's just a random tidbit, because I can't think of anything else to say. Not because he's boring. Because you just have to know him.
"I'm sorry for whatever I might have done. (Did I do anything wrong, Sara?)"
~Proof of the Pudding (Season 1)
There's not all that much to be said about Cecily. She's a sweet younger sister in the first couple seasons and is just sort of there, making an occasional comment. None of the episodes are specifically about her until the 5th season, where she gets tuberculosis and has to go away to be specially treated. Then, she comes back in the 6th season as a completely different person. Yes, a completely different person. Different actress, so she looks different, and also a major personality change. Don't ask me why they did that.
I liked the first Cecily a lot better.
Other Main Characters
Gus comes to Avonlea in an episode called How Kissing Was Discovered in Season 2. He was a sailor of some sort, I believe. When he comes to Avonlea he stays in the old abandoned lighthouse. I think he's supposed to be 16 when he first arrives (although the actor was much older than that). He starts going to school and is an enthusiastic, quick-learning student. In the 3rd season he starts working at the White Sands Hotel (yes, of Anne of Green Gables fame) as a waiter and keeps the job pretty much for the rest of the series. That is, until the end of the 5th season when he has to go away. Later he is reported to have been in a ship wreck, where all hands are lost.
Of course, at this point the viewers are like "Huh?? Gus can't die! He's like my favorite character!" (Most everyone likes Gus, you must know.) And that's how the 6th season ends... leaving you hanging. Which is what I'm going to do, too.
Oh, by the way, for you people who like guys with accents-- he has an interesting Irish-ish accent which is kind of cool, if you don't mind his bad grammar (especially in the earlier seasons).
Isolde "Izzy" Pettibone
"I even have a friend, Felix: I socked him in the nose!"
~The Lady and the Blade (Season 4)
The Pettibones arrive early in Season 4. I would tell you about the whole family, but Izzy's pretty much the only one I like, so I shall simply brief you. The father is Clive Pettibone, retired colonel, who likes to run everything as if he's still in the military. The oldest son is Arthur who is away most of the time studying to be a vegetarian. At least that's what Felix says, but he means veterinarian. (heehee) The second-oldest is Morgan. He doesn't do much for the show and is sent away to military school in the Season 5. He returns for an episode (Woman of Importance) in Season 7.
Now, Izzy. She's the youngest. I don't like her in the 4th season; she's a tomboy and rather irritating. However, she shows more promise in Season 5, when she starts wanting to be more like a girl. She's also...well, nicer, and so I sort of like her in the 5th season. By the time the 6th season comes around though, I like her a lot. I can't explain why exactly... but I do. She does annoys me every so often when she's older; she can be unreasonable and rather oversensitive. But you know, I can relate to being oversensitive. Heh... ahem. By the 7th season, you'll never see her in trousers again. In fact, I LOVE her dresses. Ooh. To have Olivia's and Izzy's wardrobes!! The 7th season is 1911-12, so I like the fashions in general.
Jasper first appears in the second episode of the series (The Story Girl Earns Her Name). He's called "The Awkward Man" by some people. He's a rather scatterbrained inventor/scientist and people think he's quite eccentric and a bit strange. He's extremely shy and reserved, especially at the beginning. Sara tries to break through it and becomes friends with him. Also, when he gets married things are a bit different.
Jasper really is an admirable gentleman, though - kind, considerate, etc.
The Main Romances
Olivia and Jasper
Their romance begins practically when Jasper is introduced into the series, though it's more subtle at first.
Olivia works as a reporter for The Avonlea Chronicle for most of the show, and at the beginning when she was trying to get the job, Jasper assisted her by taking photographs, and that's how they started getting to know each other. He proposes to her (prompted by Sara and the fact that an old beau of Olivia's comes back to Avonlea and pursues her) in the 2nd season (May the Best Man Win). She accepts him in the end, and they marry in the first episode of Season 3 (The Ties That Bind).
I really like this couple. It's one of those you-might-not-think-it-at-first-but-really-they're-perfect-for-each-other deals.
By the way, both the characters come from The Story Girl (one of the books Avonlea is based off of), but they don't marry in the book. Sad, that.
Felicity and Gus
"I'm not accustomed to wearing jewelry that comes with a curse."
~Felicity and Gus
The Return of Gus Pike (Season 6)
You sort of know Felicity and Gus are destined to be a couple from the very beginning. Things don't really get serious with them, though, until season 4. Gus proposes for the first time in an episode towards the end called Felicity's Perfect Beau. In that episode she is also interested in Arthur Pettibone, who sort of fights with Gus over her (and she probably thought that was really great). She decides she wants to wait a few more years before she makes such a decision, and go to teacher's college first (although she ends up in medical school for a while).
He has to go away in the very end of Season 5, and gives her a ring, even though she still can't decide whether she wants to become engaged to him or not.
She sees him again in the episode quoted above, where he leaves to go... well, that's a long story. But before he leaves, they finally become engaged.
And that's where I'm going to end because after that, there be spoilers.
But....sometimes Felicity is so rude to Gus, I wish he would have gone for Sara instead. (And if any Avonlea fans ARE reading this they might be mad at me right now.) Like I said before though, she IS better in the 7th season.
Felix and Izzy
"You sure take a lot of looking after, Felix King."
"I'm just lucky you don't give up on me."
"Luck. It has nothing to do with it."
~Izzy and Felix
A Fox Tale (Season 6)
What can I say? I always like the stories where a girl and boy play together as friends when they're younger, and then become more-than-friends when they're older. It's just a silly little partiality of mine. And that's how it is with Felix and Izzy.
In fact, at first, Izzy's just more like one of the boys. In Season 5 she starts to change and wears a dress for the first time in years. "Hey, Izzy, does that dress mean you can't play baseball anymore?" Felix asks. She just gives him a look, picks up the bat, and hits a home run. Season 6 is pretty much when it all starts, and has some of my favorite moments in their relationship. (And I am desperately sorry not to have been able to get any pictures from those episodes. Bah, humbug.) Especially Lonely Hearts, which is where they both like each other but neither of them knows the other one does. Until the end. Aww...
Ahem. Anyways. A few other episodes that have a lot to do with Felix and Izzy are A Fox Tale (S. 6), Love May Be Blind But the Neighbors Ain't (S. 7) and Woman of Importance (S. 7).
The series just sort of leaves you hanging as far as Felix and Izzy are concerned, which I find quite disappointing.
Since it's Avonlea, there are several things in connection with Anne of Green Gables. Including Green Gables itself, where Marilla and Rachel still live.
"Take it from me, Hetty: when your heart skips a beat, it isn't love, it's indigestion."
~Ah... Sweet Mystery of Life (Season 7)
"The only thing sillier than a girl making goo-goo eyes at a young boy, is an old bat making a fool out of herself for some old geezer!"
~Lonely Hearts (Season 6)
Good old Rachel Lynde, as Rachel Lynde-ish as ever, with her "that's what"s still intact. Except now, suddenly she's known Hetty King all her life, and apparently the two of them have been on the outs for years. In Season 6 she suffers from a stroke, and when she recovers she starts to view life a little differently then she used to, and isn't quite so... well... to quote Anne, not such a "rude, impolite, unfeeling woman!". Haha...
Marilla is technically only in the first two seasons. Her death occurs in season 3, but the actress had actually died previously and so they stuck in clips of Marilla from previous episodes, Anne of Green Gables, and even from her role in Lantern Hill. Gilbert Blythe appears in that episode (pictured right), which is quite interesting. I guess they couldn't get Megan Follows, because Anne was at home with sick children, or home sick with the children, or something like that.
My favorite As-Seen-On-Anne character is probably Miss Stacy, who is exactly the same and it's great to see her again. (I think she appears in the 5th season.) I've always liked Miss Stacy. She isn't Miss Stacy the whole time, though; in the 6th season she marries Clive Pettibone. Rather an odd match I thought, but if anyone could put up with him, it would be her. Ha.
Davy and Dora Keith
Davy and Dora, from the Anne books, actually come in in Season 2, but I don't remember much of them again until Season 5. Marilla and Rachel have them in the beginning, then Marilla dies, and then just Rachel has them. Then Rachel has a stroke, and after that she actually lives with Hetty and they both take care of Davy and Dora.
However. Davy does NOT say "I want to know!" continually, about which I am Most Seriously Displeased. Come on, people, that's Davy's trademark! Tssh.
Actually, I like him a lot better in the books, period.this page.
(By the way, "Aunt Abigail", or Abigail Ward, pictured above, is Janet King's sister and appears in the 1st and 7th seasons.)
Music, Costumes, and Scenery
Beautiful, beautiful, and beautiful. I realize this post is already a good mile long, so I shall try to keep this very short. Very short.
The music is composed, in the first season, by Hagood Hardy, who also wrote the soundtrack for Anne movies 1 and 2. Unfortunately it doesn't stay that way, though... I think the composer died. The tune of the main theme song stays the same, but it changes in style as the series goes along. It becomes sort of faster and more... frantic.
In the later seasons, some ragtime music is introduced. I don't always like ragtime, but in Avonlea I do. Especially the song Izzy plays on the piano in Lonely Hearts, which is also featured in King of the Great White Way (Season 7).
Costumes... aaahhhh. I especially like them in the 7th season. (Short. Short.)
Scenery... well, it's Prince Edward Island. Need I say more? If you've seen the Anne movies, I'm sure I needn't.
Now, I am very grieved that there is nothing suitable to use as a trailer, so a couple videos of the opening credits will have to suffice. It will, at least, give you a chance to see some of Avonlea in motion.
....and Season 6.
And lastly, Avonlea Guide is a web site that has just about everything about Road to Avonlea.
In conclusion... I highly recommend it. I'm sure I don't even need to say that after all this, but I'm saying it anyways.
Thank you very much for having me, Miss Dashwood! I am much honored, and it was great to have this excuse to re-explore the captivating world of dear Avonlea.