Review: Heartland (Spoiler Free)

For the last few weeks I’ve been watching Heartland, a Canadian TV show about a family ranch for troubled horses. It’s been pretty family friendly and maybe a little campy thus far, but the show also has a lot of personality around the fictional drama that I’m really enjoying.

Heartland is set in a small town where the popular kids jump horses and play polo, the poor kids help their parents run family farms, and big oil companies and cattle thieves are the main villains. Essentially it’s about as far from my city-slicking daily life as one could possibly imagine and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I honestly thought that I would. Turns out, it has just the right amount of drama and witty comedy to keep me interested and the story arcs are paced well over the first few seasons that I’ve watched so far. I’m also learning a lot about ranch life and about horses. Go figure.

I especially love the characters of this show. There’s Grandpa, the seemingly grouchy old teddy bear who’d do anything to protect his family and the land that’s been his for six generations. There’s Mallory, a Kimmy Gibbler-esq extension of the family, always sticking her nose into everyone’s business, inviting herself to dinner, and generally being lovable anyway. Ty is the hired ranch hand with a troubled past, the guy with baggage up the wazoo who Amy’s mother agrees to give a second chance off parole and who time and again proves himself to be more than the cards he’s been dealt. Lou, the older sister, thinks she’s a city slicking New Yorker, but at the end of the day Heartland is her home and when it’s in trouble she’s always first in line to lend a hand. And of course there’s Amy, the heart and soul of Heartland, the horse whisperer and main protagonist for the whole equine part of the show. There are other characters too – Amy’s best friend Soraya, mean girl Ashley, Scott the family veterinarian and Ty’s predecessor, Caleb the cowboy – and all of them together prove an excellent cast.

One of my favorite parts of discovering a new TV show is the opportunity to take in some new soundtracks. Because what would a heartfelt dramatic scene be without the appropriate score, right? And one of the great things about Heartland is that it has a good combination of folksy upbeat music and country music. The theme song, “Dreamer” by Jenn Grant, is a great example. It’s light and soulful, but leaves you feeling full of inner strength, too. Another song I was introduced to is, “Life is Good” by Todd Hunter Band. It has very simple, poignant lyrics that capture the main theme of the entire show:

Life is good, life is great, life is asking you to participate.

Life just wants to be loved, just like everybody else does…

Life goes on at these ranches, generation after generation, despite all the struggle that tries to drag you down along the way. You might lose your cattle herd one year, but with help from friends and family you muddle through to better times. And until you do, you don’t just let yourself give up on enjoying what you can in the meanwhile. That’s what Heartland is all about.

As simple as the show may appear on the surface, with dramatic episodes about rodeo competitions and rich kids rebelling against their parents while poor kids get up to do ranch chores before school, the show’s main focus is really on the lifestyle of this town and all the things the cast is going through. And I love shows that are honestly able to capture that, shows with a distinct personality or culture embedded with the dramatic story lines. It makes it feel real. This is something that Heartland has in spades. You really get an understanding of the ranchers’ lives and I love that.

As I said, the show can be a little campy at times, maybe even a bit melodramatic. But I’m definitely enjoying it and if you have any interest in this sort of show – one with a small town feel, a close cast of characters, and a distinct culture mixed with drama – then I would happily recommend it.

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