Friday, September 14, 2012
Heartland Is Back For --Gulp-- Season Six
Just what is it about CBC's family drama Heartland which returns Sunday night at 7 for its sixth season?
I mean there are no murders, no rapes, precious little melodrama. What gives?
Well, Heartland long ago found its audiences and not all the viewers are teenaged girls who love horses.
Whole families watch this well made series together and Heartland serves the same basic audience who once caught CBC's Beachcombers a long time ago and more recently such teacup time dramas as Road To Avonlea and Wind Up My Back.
Look, I've been covering these simply felt series during my four decades as a TV critic.
And part of the job always involves chatting up the youthful stars.
On Matt And Jenny (1979) and TV's Anne Of Green Gables (1985) it was Megan Follows.
Then on Road To Avonlea (1990-96) I'd dial up Sarah Poley and chat to her on the phone while her dad listened in on the extension.
When Katts & Dog (1988-93) was running for five seasons I'd go on the set to interview young Andrew Berdnaski who chose an academic career like his teaching parents and graduated with a PhD. in archeology from Cambridge University.
On the set of the TV flick Fast Food High it meant interviewing young Alison Pill who now stars on the cable hit The Newsroom.
This time out my phone rang and it was 11-years-old Alisha Newton who chatted away with her mother adding her own comments.
Alisha is no newcomer to the acting game, she's been at it since she was four.
The duo talked from their Vancouver home where Alisha goes to school --Heartland was on hiatus for weeks.
On the set Alisha must have hours of tutoring a day and says it's not so hard since it's one-to-one teaching with a tutor.
Alisha first had to test for the part and was called back and told it was hers. But one condition was an ability to ride.
I'd been on a horse at my grandma's" she reports. "But now I'm getting real lessons, like how to canter."
Then came the challenge of fitting in with a well established cast. "Everybody has been so nice," she says. In the electronic media kit her co-stars sing out her professionalism.
She plays a character named Georgie who has been in foster care. "She has run away to get close to her brother and when it seems he doesn't want her she arrives at the ranch."
"Oh, she's a real bundle," Alisha laughs. "She has a whole lot of attitude and she can be very funny, too."
The first new episode is titled "Running Against the Wind" and starts with Georgie running away and into the Alberta bush which could be dangerous for such a little thing.
I hope I'm not giving away too much by reporting in the first new episode Tim (Chris Potter) seems set on reorienting his life via a fast food franchise. And Ty seems bent on studying to become as vet after he fudged a proposal of marriage to Amy.
Peter (Gabe Hogan) and Lou (Michelle Morgan) are still struggling to complete their partly built new house.
And then there's the girl at the farm, Georgie. "She usually gets what she wants," Alisha warns. "It's fun playing her and I already feel part of the family."
Judging by her sturdy interpretation I'm ready to fearlessly predict a strong career for Newton as I once saw major things happening for Follows, Poley and Pill. And on the question of young talent I'm always right.
HEARTLAND RETURNS TO CBC SUND. SEPT. 16 AT 7 P.M.
MY RATING: ***.