TV Review: Return to Cranford

The temptation is always to go back but Return to Cranford largely proves a disappointment

“I’ve got family in Bolton”

The success of Cranford meant that a sequel was never really in doubt but the two feature-length episodes that made up Return to Cranford didn’t really do much to match up to the original, in my own humble opinion. Following the same template of Heidi Thomas crafting this world from the collected works of Elizabeth Gaskell, this series makes the mistake of introducing us to a whole new world of supporting characters rather than expanding on those we come to know and love.

Once again, the God-tier level of casting means that the show is never less than entirely watchable. The likes of Jonathan Pryce, Celia Imrie, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Le Prevost, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Hiddleston, Michelle Dockery, Rory Kinnear and Tim Curry join us but as their stories are threaded through the life of the village and the dreaded arrival of the trainline and its accompanying station, there’s just a sense of why bother, given that they hadn’t been mentioned in that glorious first season.

Consequently, the best scenes are those which feature the returning characters, as the core team of Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Julia McKenzie and Deborah Findlay reprise their roles (with Barbara Flynn’s Mirs Jamieson kinda stepping up in place of Eileen Atkins’ sadly departed Miss Deborah). Crucial to the success of Cranford is the sense of community cultivated between the characters, even through the gossip, and too many newcomers just throws that out of whack.

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