Netflix is home to a wide variety of original series. While some of them are definitely aimed at all adults, there are also some fun options for the whole family. New series Anne With an E is a reimagining of the popular novel Anne of Green Gables, bringing all the characters we know and love from the book to streaming video in a brand new way. It's not the first Anne of Green Gables adaptation, it undoubtedly won't be the last; still, it absolutely sets itself apart as a series that can appeal to kids and adults alike in some unexpected ways.
This is still the story of a little Canadian orphan girl who is accidentally brought to live with a family who wanted a little boy, but there's also so much more. So, in honor of the debut of Anne With an E, check out our picks for 5 reasons why it is Netflix's best new family drama!
It Features Contemporary Themes
Anne With an E had the potential to be just another period project that takes viewers back to that vague era known as "olden times," but it has managed to infuse a contemporary twist into a past time. The kids speak like kids, enough so that young Anne and Diana could be girls playing pretend as much now as they did in the 1890s setting. Young orphan Anne is already a feminist of sorts, boasting that she can do anything a boy can do.
Episodes manage to sneak in some handy modern lessons for kids tuning in today, including an example of why young folks should never go places with strangers, no matter how friendly they seem or how many sweets they promise. The show is faithful enough to L.M. Montgomery's novel that I find myself wanting to do a re-read, and a healthy amount of the first episode feels practically lifted verbatim from the page. Nevertheless, this is an updated version of Anne of Green Gables, and it works.
It's Not At All Childish
Make no mistake--Anne With an E is no cheery little Disney romp with happy shenanigans from start to finish. In fact, some younger viewers may need to have a few of the darker elements explained to them. Unlike past adaptations of Anne of Green Gables, Anne With an E doesn't gloss over the abuses that Anne suffered prior to being mistakenly brought to Green Gables. The book merely touched on some of what happened to her and let readers read between the lines; Anne With an E explores why Anne would be so dead set against returning to the orphanage and being passed around as a servant.
Rather than ruining the scenes of Anne discovering the beauty of Green Gables and Avonlea, the darker scenes elevate the lighter scenes and explain a great deal about Anne and why she is so imaginative. Adults will be able to relate and sympathize with Anne, and kids will want to know more about her.
It Looks Beautiful
Anne With an E filmed on location in Ontario and on Prince Edward Island, which has been the home of the fictional town of Avonlea since Anne of Green Gables was published back in 1908. The location shooting is evident in every single scene, many of which are filmed outdoors. The landscape is gorgeous and largely unspoiled, and viewers don't even necessarily need Anne's grand "scope for the imagination" to be transported back to 1890s Avonlea.
Whether we're watching a frantic horseback ride along the shores or seeing a character in period dress standing on a cliff or even just looking at little Anne in a giant field, the show simply looks gorgeous. I'd be willing re-watch this series, if only to appreciate the visuals of it. Throw in the fact that the actors aren't glammed up or overly made up to stick out, and Anne With an E feels perfectly natural and believable. Even if the subject matter gets a bit ugly in scenes that address Anne's life before Green Gables, the landscape is always pretty.
It Stars Amybeth McNulty
Irish actress Amybeth McNulty stars as Anne Shirley, and it's easy to see why she beat out more than 1,800 other young hopefuls the land the role. It was a brilliant casting move, partly because McNulty actually looks like a little girl who has been thrust into a situation that she doesn't entirely understand but wants desperately to work out. She doesn't look like a 22-year-old actress wearing pigtails to try and look younger; she's entirely believable as the 13-year-old Anne, and her emotional journey is all the more resonant for her youth.
She certainly deserves credit for her ability to shift between emotions very quickly, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I've now discovered yet another performer who makes me want to cry whenever she cries, and she's quite relatable as Anne Shirley. Anne With an E was never going to work unless the right actress was chosen to carry the series, and I'd say that Amybeth McNulty was pretty much a perfect pick. I'm just hoping we get more than one season to see what she can do in the role.
Anne With an E debuts on Netflix on Friday, May 12 at 12:01 a.m. PT. Check out our 2017 Netflix premiere schedule to discover all your other streaming options, and don't forget to take a look at our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options now and in the coming weeks. Be sure to drop by our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations as well. Our TV season finale schedule can give you all you need to know about your shows ending.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).