Our Zoo - 1.01 / 1.02
The Beeb are the masters of the very British, verging on the twee, but actually very watchable and very lovely midweek 9pm show. And Our Zoo is one of those shows that only the BBC could get away with, its slightly nostalgic view of life in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s (despite nods to the shellshock of main character George Mottershead, strongly portayed by Lee Ingleby) is just the kind of thing that you want to wash away any midweek blues.
The story of how Chester Zoo came about is fascinating and one that is worth hearing about. The contrast of family life as it was written in those times with the dream of one man is drawn large in the opening episode, where the Mottershead family leave their little two up two down and corner shop the live the dream in a massive mansion. The second episode builds, then resolves, the family issues whilst dealing with the adventures of George and his brother in law (Ralph Little playing a Ralph Little character) gathering new animals.
The cast is strong with Life On Mars alum Liz White playing George’s wife Lizzie, and British TV stalwarts Peter White and Anne Reid as his parents. Newcomer Honor Kneafsey, the youngest member of the family June, is the archetypical “cute kid” and is accordingly cute. The real stars though are the animals, the little squirrel monkey is a real character and features heavily in the promos for the show, and the two bears from the second episode are fearsomely docile creatures.
Most interesting is the choice of villain, there's always a villian, which seems to be the Church Of England, or more specifically Reverend Aaron Webb. While the Mottershead family are churchgoers the Reverend seems to have taken a dislike to them, potentially due to some previous relationship with the grand house that they’ve purchased and moved in to. We can expect more developments on that next week.
So, very much like a traditional shepherd’s pie, Our Zoo is not ground-breaking in any way but comforting and familiar, and unashamedly British.