The Durrells: Why fans adore the 'sun-drenched' new series
ITV heads to Corfu for second season after sunny, friendly antidote to crime show gloom is a hit
The Durrells, ITV's new adaptation of Gerald Durrell's popular book My Family and Other Animals, has turned out to be such a crowd-pleaser that it has already been renewed for a second season.
The six-part debut series, written by Men Behaving Badly's Simon Nye, is based on the celebrated naturalist's semi-autobiographical tale about growing up on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939.
Keeley Hawes stars as matriarch Louisa, who struggles to manage her family in Bournemouth and decides to take them to Greece. The island offers warmth and hospitality, but also a series of challenges for the beleaguered widow and her four unruly children, sex-mad Larry (Josh O'Connor), gun-obsessed Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), boy-crazed Margo (Daisy Waterstone) and animal-lover Gerry (Milo Parker).
This laidback treat is just the thing to fill the Death in Paradise/Grantchester/ Downton Abbey gap, says Tom Eames in Digital Spy, who tipped the series early on to become "ITV's next big drama hit".
It's "friendly, funny and surprisingly crude in parts", he says. It may be twee at times, "but sometimes you need a bit of that after being drained by the many doldrum crime dramas that fill our screens all year round".
The Durrells has all the classic ingredients for Sunday night viewing: "warmth, nostalgia, beautiful locations and a star, in Keeley Hawes," says Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph. It is "a gem", not only "sun-drenched and liberating", but also catching the high good humour and authentic sense of the innocent exoticism of the original.
He concludes that this "tip top" family friendly fare will "make us dive for a laptop to book our very own bit of bliss in the sun".
While My Family and Other Animals is billed as autobiographical, it was, in fact, a work of fiction, notes Joanna Hodgkin in The Times. Yet, while the incidents were all made up, "the essence of the family was preserved in their speech and escapades".
The Durrells has drifted even further from the real story, she adds, and shifted the focus from the young naturalist to Louisa, now ten years younger and much easier for contemporary women to identify with.
Son Larry, a young man with a passion for literature whose Alexandria Quartet tetralogy of novels astonished a whole generation, has been replaced by "a bumptious adolescent", adds Hodgkin. It doesn't really matter, she admits, as long as the series entertains.
And entertain it does. As well as a second series in the pipeline, The Durrells is ITV's best-rating new drama of the year and its highest-rating new show since September 2014, amassing an audience of more than eight million for its first episode.
A host of fans have been tweeting their praise.
Filming on the second season will take place later this year in Corfu.