Little Men (1998–1999)
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I was thrilled to discover that the episodes were being released on DVD and immediately purchased them. I just wish they'd come out faster. I have seen all 8 of the episodes that are out so many times that I have the lines, blocking, gestures, and expressions memorized. The fact of the matter is that if you're looking for good family entertainment, this is one show that you will be sure to find it in.
I will readily admit that the show is drastically different from the Louisa May Alcott books, as well as the movie Little Women. Tomboyish Jo has now become gorgeous and very much a perfectionist...the latter definitely being an attribute that I can relate to---perhaps one of the reasons I love her character. Michelle Rene Thomas does an incredible job in my opinion of portraying Jo...making the emotion very realistic, not to mention the fact that she is stunning. She has quickly become one of my favorite actresses of all time. I personally like the character, Nick, portrayed by Spencer Rochfort; I think he does the personality justice and seems to fit right into the show...of course, there never was such a character in the novels, but I approve of the storyline. The kids are great actors as well and all do an amazing job of making such a story come to life. The facial expressions each actor has to offer are worth a thousand words; you can tell exactly what they are thinking and how they are feeling regardless if any words are actually coming out of their mouths.
And I can understand why the writers chose to make such drastic changes to the novels. They obviously wanted the show to possess a sense of individuality, and it does. By bringing in additional characters and making the children slightly older than in the books, I believe the meaning behind the show becomes so much deeper. It's full of values, morals, and lessons...all things that we can apply to our daily lives. There are so many different things that can be learned from this show in my opinion, such as the meaning of family and love, as well as the strength of integrity, courage, and faith. There is no question that Michelle Rene Thomas portrays a very strong and courageous woman, willing to fight and do anything to succeed and make her dreams a reality...something that each of us truly wants to achieve in a lifetime.
So overall, if you take anything out of this, know that this is one show that you can watch with your family and fully enjoy. It may not be the exact copy of the novel, but I like what the writers, producers, and directors have done with the storyline and characters. Each actor in this show has so much talent and brings to life such a great story, one that I love dearly and am sure that many others will. I love Little Men!
Although this show only lasted for two seasons, it is quite an entertaining TV-series, with decent acting, heartwarming and suspenseful stories and good ol' friendship bonding. I especially liked the chemistry between Jo and caretaker Nicholas Riley (Spencer Rochfort) and the young teen students. There are episodes ranging from heartfelt to dramatic and from adventurous to mysterious.
Overall, a good drama show for the entire family.
Michelle Rene Thomas is a bit too pretty to fit into tom-boyish Jo's shoes and I think, to date, it is only Katherine Hepburn who has best suited the character of Jo(in spite of being one of the most beautiful women on earth). Yet Thomas as Jo, with Jennifer Wigmore as Meg and Amy Price-Francis as Amy make a nice threesome. Their rapport is best seen in the episode in which the three get lost in the woods after the horse harnessed to their carriage is stolen by an impudent female delinquent. Told in retrospect by Jo, Meg and Amy, who relate the details of their adventure according to their individual personalities, it is one of the funniest episodes of the series! As to the rest of the cast, they all have done a good job with their characters. Robin Dunne's exit was a bit disappointing. He was really cute as Franz! Among the kids I liked Trevor Blumas(Nat), Brittney Irvin(Nan) and Matt Robinson(Tommy) the best!
The inclusion of the character of Nick Reilly is debatable. Did the creators of the show feel that a series about an old German professor married to an attractive fiery woman running a home-school would be too boring for the audience? Did they think they made an unromantic couple? I guess they did. So they introduced Nick Reilly - a character who is an antithesis to Jo's deceased husband. I'm afraid, however much they wanted the attraction between Jo and Nick to seem as something more than just physical, in the end it seemed only that. Spencer Rochfort as Nick however has done his best to do justice to his character. Dan Chameroy as Laurie needed a little getting used to. His character is too grim and mirthless to be The Laurie as created by Alcott.
This series was nice and playful. It certainly lacked the authenticity and depth of characterization of a truly brilliant period series like 'Road to Avonlea'. The costumes and hair-styling didn't seem very 19th century like - especially the latter. But all in all, this series was enjoyable and definitely a good alternative to some other contemporary shows. And I know many people who would otherwise never watch period shows, assuming them to be heavy and boring(an unfortunate misconception), who tuned into 'Little Men' and got hooked to it! The title tune of the series composed my Milan Kymlicka is one of the best I've heard, I used to look forward to hearing it every time!
As an hour-long drama, "Little Men" is very much in the vein of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and "Road to Avonlea". Well written and acted, kids and parents should enjoy this show together.
The scripts fail to rise above the usual mediocre television standard, but the cast of mostly unknowns breathes life into the characters, making their little trials interesting and entertaining... without feeling the need to constantly preach to the audience.
While this adaptation also isn't faithful to Louisa May Alcott's book (which is a lovely read if not as memorable as 'Little Women', which is my comfort book and a lifelong favourite, and 'Good Wives') in detail, it is closer in spirit to it than the other two adaptations. It is also by far the best version of 'Little Men' on its own, being the only one of the three to be better than decent, actually quite a lot of it is very good.
'Little Men' does have its faults. It is a shame that Professor Bhaer is replaced by a less interesting and more clichéd character of Nick, though Spencer Rochfort does a quite good job making Nick not as annoying, stiff or too cloying as he could have been, with a good chemistry between Michelle Burke. Dan Chameroy is also rather too grim as Laurie.
Michelle Burke however is the best of the 'Little Men' Jo's. Again she is not the headstrong, tomboyish or prone to losing her temper Jo when younger but she is much less subdued or as bland as Kay Francis or Mariel Hemmingway, playing her with sincerity and spunk. Jennifer Wigmore and Amy Price-Francis are charming as Meg and Amy, and the children are remarkably very good.
It's a great-looking series too, visually the most accomplished and most evocative to the period than the other two adaptations. The period detail is often exquisite and the series is beautifully filmed. The script doesn't fall into juvenile slapstick or maudlin sentiment, and has some depth and a lot of heart. The story is heartfelt, efficiently paced and always compelling, also covering serious and darker subjects that stops the series from being too sentimental or corny. One does wish that the series lasted longer thought.
Overall, very nicely done and while flawed is still the best version of 'Little Men'. 8/10 Bethany Cox