Psychiatrists could easily reduce the number of Xanax scripts they write by instead recommending the CBC family drama Heartland to all their patients. Because it is absolutely The Nicest Show in the history of television. I love Heartland so much that, after finishing all six seasons in 13 days, I immediately turned on Season 1 Episode 1 and started again.
Every moment of watching Heartland makes me feel like I’ve just spent a week meditating on the meaning of life and found within myself the answers to my most challenging questions while simultaneously overcoming my greatest fears. Even now, all I have to do is put the theme song on and a deep sense of inner peace washes over me. (It’s a really great song by indie Canadian artist Jenn Grant, whose albums have owned my Spotify for weeks now.)
The premise of this show is so similar to McLeod’s Daughters. City sister returns to ranch life after death of parent and country sister resists her input before they eventually grow closer and dearer than anyone other than the writers could ever have imagined. But Heartland manages at every turn to prove what you always knew while watching McLeod’s Daughters: It doesn’t always have to be awful. Families don’t lose all the time. Sometimes they win, in fact. And often, they find happiness.
Though the show begins with the death of Marian Fleming, horse whisperer extraordinaire, this loss helps shape each member of her family into the best versions of themselves. Plus, the show is shot in the heart of the Rockies in Alberta, Canada and the Ansel Adams-worthy backdrop is enough to inspire dreams of the open trail in even the most urban of folks.
The glue that holds this show together is undeniably Amy Fleming: Teen Horse Whisperer. (Seriously, is there anything more darling than the idea of a Teen Horse Whisperer?) At 15, Amy is already showing that she has inherited the gift that made her mother famous and begins to gain some notoriety of her own early in the first season. She is forced to grow up quickly when her horse training abilities are relied upon to to save the farm that has been in their family for six generations. She juggles work, chores, school and a confusing relationship with Ty Borden, the bad-boy farmhand who arrives at Heartland to work out the remainder of his probation. The fact that she isn’t always successful and is sometimes annoying in a very teenagery way makes her and the show even more endearing.
But the burden for plot development doesn’t rest solely on Amy’s shoulders, thankfully. There are always new horses (and riders) for her to help and the Heartland family provides plenty of antics that emotionally range from lighthearted to heartbreaking.
Comprised of both blood relations and foundlings that Grandpa Jack Bartlett has taken under his wing, this is the family you wish you belonged to. Well, for the most part. Amy and her sister Lou are reunited with their father in season 1, at which point he becomes a bothersome pest who can always be counted on to do the very wrongest of things. He continues to be a source of annoyance, but I guess he does lend some credibility to the show. After all, who doesn’t have at least one family member they wish they didn’t?
A large part of the success of this show is due to the fact that the supporting cast carries their weight. Every horrible thing in the whole world doesn’t have to happen to the Bartlett/Fleming family, because there are other people in the world, too. And those people often have troubled horses and lives and Amy helps them sort out both.
I just finished my second round with all the episodes, including the current seventh season and I’m not sure what to do now. Honestly, I want everyone in the world to watch this show. Somehow, I feel if they did, it might be a better place overall.