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Judi Dench and Lisa Dillon star in Cranford. Dench says the story's themes of community and friendship "make it really inspirational".
Image: NPR

Cranford comes to America this Sunday evening on PBS. Dorothy Rabinowitz writes -

"Ten minutes into this work about the inhabitants of an 1840s English village (based on the fiction of Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell) I'd reached for my notebook to scrawl "Please - Don't ever let this end."

That's not to say Cranford's charms are mainly escapist. In Gaskell's fiction, the voice of reformist conscience is never far from the surface, and Cranford is no exception. Its commentaries on poverty, class, education, child labor and the status of women lie at the heart of this saga bursting at the seams, Dickens-like, with an army of impossibly vivid characters. Social argument is woven into every aspect of this story - its comedy, its tragedy, its romance. And Cranford is nothing if not immensely, triumphantly romantic. . ."

Romantic despite the fact that Gaskell introduces the town by saying all the gentlemen have disappeared. Somehow this void is filled.