Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Why I Am a Fan of Heartland

Heartland is one of my absolute favourite TV shows.  It also happens to be the longest-running one-hour drama in the history of Canadian television, surpassing Street Legal, which ran for eight seasons (1987-1994). Happily, there will be a 12th season of Heartland beginning in January.of 2019.  Note  Heartland is available to U.S. viewers on Netflix.

Heartland is filmed in southern Alberta, much of it around High River and nearby Calgary.  The series is worth watching for its beautiful ambiance alone because it set against the splendour pf the foothills of the Rockies,  Then, of  course, there are all those magnificent horses.  In every episode, they are shown jumping or galloping or racing, often in slow motion. The horses are almost as important as the human characters since they provide the backdrop for all the stories.  That's why the show is a real delight for equine lovers.

Based on a series of novels by Lauren Brooke, Heartland was adapted into a television series by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2007.  It is the saga of a multi-generational family who live on the Heartland Ranch outside of Calgary, near the fictional town of Hudson, Alberta.  (A large tract of land near the hamlet of Millarville, Alberta serves as the main ranch setting).  The ranch has a tradition of treating and healing diseased and mistreated horses.
The Heartland Ranch

The patriarch of the family is Jack Bartlett, played by veteran actor Shaun Johnston.  Shaun is a native of Ponoka, Alberta (between Red Deer and Edmonton) and he has worked in Canadian film and television since the early 1990s.  According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Johnston "embodies a stoic Western archetype similar to Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Glenn Ford."  Johnston's character, Jack, can be gruff and cantankerous, but he is also compassionate and possesses a dry wit.  He is proud that the ranch has been in the Bartlett family for six generations.

Shaun Johnston is not as old as the Heartland character (according IMDb, he was born on September 9, 1958).  He ages himself by wearing a wig and dying his moustache grey.  In a 2016 interview with Horse Canada, Johnston was asked what he has learned from playing Grandpa Jack over the years.  He replied, "I've learned that I'm going to grow old gracefully."  He told Horse Canada that when Heartland ends, he he would like to "watch a lot of TV and play more hockey."

Shaun Johnston
Another major character is Amy, Jack's granddaughter, played by Amber Marshall.  Amber was born and raised in London, Ontario and she is a former veterinary assistant.  Since 2016, however, she has lived on a ranch outside of Calgary with her husband, Shawn Turner, and their many animals.  Amber's passion for animals is quite authentic and it shines through in her portrayal of Amy.
Amber's character, Amy Fleming was raised by her mother Marion and her maternal grandfather, Jack.  Her father, Tim Fleming, abandoned the family when Amy was five and her older sister, Lou, was 15.  Marion was killed in a car crash when she and her Amy were on a mission to rescue a horse from an abusive owner.

Amber Marshall
In 2015, Amy married to Tyler "Ty" Borden.  Ty, portrayed by Graham Wardle, has a troubled past,  He came to Heartland when Jack arranged for him to work there while he was serving his probation (for assaulting his abusive stepfather).  Ty and Amy tied the knot in Season 8 and they have a daughter named Lyndy after Jack's mother, Lyndy Bartlett.  Ty became a veterinarian and is part-owner of the Hudson Vet Clinic.

Graham Wardle was born in Mission, British Columbia and raised in New Westminster, near Vancouver.  In addition to being an actor, Graham is a photographer and filmmaker.  In 2013, he co-founded Lone Maverick, a movie production and entertainment company.

Graham Wardle
Heartland has authentic characters and it features good stories with real plots.  Its not pretentious or cartoonish.  It's characters are flawed, but very human.  Their relationships are realistic and believable.  They may not be as glitzy and glamorous and wealthy as the characters on Dallas and Dynasty, but they are true to life.  After all, they deal with horses, not oil.  Heartland is definitely not South Fork, but it's more true to life.


* The Heartland novels by Lauren Brooke are set in the United States, on a ranch in Virginia.

*  Amber Marshall received the inaugural Canada's Screen Star Award (voted by fans) at the 2013 Canadian Screen Awards.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (May 28, 2019): Great news for fans of Heartland.  Amber Marshall has confirmed that Heartland has been renewed for a 13th season, beginning in the fall of 2019.  The new season will consist of ten one-hour episodes.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Graham Wardle (Ty Borden) left Heartland in 2020.

EDITORS'S UPDATE (January 9. 2021):  Heartland will kick off its 14th season on Sunday night, January 10, 2021, on CBC and CBC Gem.  I will be watching.  

EDITOR'S UPDATE (November 13, 2021):  Season 15 of Heartland kicked off on CBC and CBC Gem on Sunday, October 17, 2021.  It will consist of 10 episodes.  

EDITOR'S UPDATE (June 27, 2022):  CBC has announced that Heartland has been renewed for a 16th season.  The show will return in the fall with 15 new episodes.

- Joanne

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