STUDIO: Disney
MSRP: $34.99
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 590 Minutes

The Pitch

"Alright – I have an idea for a new show. Take the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and reverse it. But make it about the whitest people on the planet." "Sir, that sounds great and all – but this is 1986. Fresh Prince won’t hit the air until 4 years from now." bum-bum-buuuuum

The Humans

Sarah Polley, Jackie Burroughs, Mag Ruffman, Zachary Bennett, Gema Zamprogna

Just a spoonfull of BUDGET!
A still from a very low-budget adaptation of Mary Poppins.

The Nutshell

Sarah Stanley (Polley) is the 10-year-old daughter of a wealthy business owner. When Daddy is arrested and put on trial for embezzlement, Sarah has to leave her lavish lifestyle behind and goes to stay with relatives in small-town Avonlea. Lessons are learned and friendships are made. Well, more accurately put – formulas are followed. That will tell you what you need to know.

The Package

Taking up the room on your shelf will be three slim-lines in a slipcover. The artwork is nicely laid out with "Walton-esque" visuals, fonts and colors. It’s a nice job, if not a little bland (but these shows tend to be a little bland so hey – it’s consistent). However, I was very pleased to find different cast photos on each of the enclosed slimlines. Those of you who read my reviews know that recycled artwork and wasted real estate is a huge pet peeve of mine so I was very pleased with this. Well, pleased, that is, until I put the disk in. Have you ever looked through a screen door? Or the screen in a window? If you have then you know exactly what this show looks like. Granted, this is a 1986 import from Canada, but this DVD was released this year. Surely Disney (of all companies), with the technology available, could afford to put a little effort into this 1.33:1 Fullscreen Transfer. But considering the Menu Design looks like it was created by a 12-year old who just leanred how to use MyDVD, I’m not really surprised. The audio is a little better, but not much and there are no special features to be found. So far – no good.

Yeah, he listened to what The Flower People said – and it scared the hell out of him.

The Lowdown

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the criticism ends. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to this one. I never got into these kinds of shows and this is something I would have never stopped on in my rounds through my DirecTV program guide.

Skeletor knew his human costume wasn’t fooling anyone and he got kind of worried…

Well, I’ll also admit that I was wrong. Halfway through the first episode I found myself thinking "This ain’t so bad," and by the end of the first disc I was anxious to start the second. For a bland little show it wasn’t that bland at all. I found it to be extremely charming and (even though it’s not the most stimulating show intellectually) very entertaining. Every character was fleshed out and given a personality, the stories were contained but believable and well paced and even though it was Sarah’s show, the writers weren’t afraid to give the other residents of Avonlea their time in the spotlight. And it is Sarah’s show. She shines as the precocious little fish-out-of-water who has to deal with the shadow of her father’s reputation in a town that thrives on gossip. In each episode new secrets are revealed about the town’s many colorful residents and on paper, it would seem a little gimmicky to involve Sarah in each and every one, but on screen it works. It may seem like I’m gushing, but as low as my expectations were going in I found myself extremely surprised.

The question, though, is "is this a show for me?" Well, if you like these types of programs then absolutely. If you don’t – well, maybe. I never would have thought I would be anticipating the release of the second season of Tales From Avonlea, but I am. Take that for what it’s worth.

…so he tried a new one and was pleased with the results.

7.0 out of 10